Patentholder seeks its day in court

But DE Technologies isn't suing Kiwi e-tailers - it has a more ambitious target

DE Technologies, the company that contacted New Zealand e-commerce companies last year claiming patent infringement and requesting licensing fees, has decided upon a bigger fish to fry: Dell, Inc.

DET is suing Dell in a US federal court in Virginia, seeking a “small percentage” of the millions of dollars in internet sales the computer manufacturer makes each year.

Earlier this year IT industry representatives said they thought DE Technologies had probably been discouraged from trying to enforce its patent in NZ by the negative reaction from local e-tailers.

In an email to Computerworld, DET chief executive Ed Pool declined to comment on the Dell case, but said that "nothing has changed" regarding the company's claims in New Zealand.

Richard Shearer, CEO of e-commerce host WebFarm, speculated last week that DET may have originally tried to enforce its patent in New Zealand in an attempt to get a courtroom precedent. However, he says, under NZ law all aspects of the patent must be in use before a violation occurs.

Shearer doubts there would be few, if any, e-tailers here who would meet that criteria.

However, Dell might have more to fear from DET’s patent, Shearer says. The patent covers e-commerce activities such as multilingual and cross-border trade — features found on Dell’s website.

Jim Higgins, the convenor of InternetNZ’s patent advisory group, said in February that he thought the company’s patent would “never stand up in court”.

“It’s something that we’re thinking has probably gone away,” he said. “We presumed that they were not exactly scared off, but possibly decided that it wasn’t worth the effort.”

DET chief executive Ed Pool says the company has patents in New Zealand, Australia, Singapore and the United States. In February he told Computerworld that “the actions of parties engaged in piracy and infringement” left DET no alternative than to sort the matter out in court.

However, a courtroom victory against Dell would clearly be a more lucrative option than taking action against New Zealand e-tailers.

A Dell representative declined to comment as the matter is before the court.

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