This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

NCR: 'All Your Palm Are Belong to Us'

Mar 16 2001 12:00 AM PST

The teller-machine maker says it invented the palmtop computer in the 1980s.


Thirteen years ago NCR (NCR) was issued two patents on a device that sounds suspiciously like a present-day handheld computer. Yesterday the maker of automated-teller systems and point-of-sale networks filed suit against Palm (PALM) and Handspring (HAND), claiming that the Palm Pilot and the Handspring Visor violate NCR's patents. NCR's filing claimed that both companies were aware of its patents and chose to ignore them.

The San Jose Mercury News ran a succinct story from yesterday's Bloomberg wire. ZDNet's InterActive Week went with yesterday's Reuters copy, which reported Handspring's vow to fight, and a no-comment from Palm.

Today's stories on AllNetDevices.com and in the Wall Street Journal expanded on Handspring's reaction, quoting a spokesman as saying the company was working with Palm to defend against the lawsuit. The Journal's Jerry Guidera drew a quick sketch of the handheld industry today, noting Palm's sales of $522 million last year and Handspring's $100 million-plus to last July. Guidera also ran this maybe-so-maybe-not quote from a Boston patent attorney: "The technology was in a different state back then, so it's going to be a bit of a stretch to get the court to cover the technology we have now. Still, the court may find that it's not that much of a stretch."

The Slashdot community provided deeper background than did any of the mainstream press. An early poster unearthed links to the two NCR patents in dispute, and other contributors reduced the patentese to something resembling plain English, or at least tech-speak. While all the press accounts mentioned that NCR had requested a jury trial, a lawyer posted on Slashdot to point out that NCR was probably just preserving that option for any later action. The Slashdot staffer introducing the topic asked sarcastically. "What about my patent for a 'medium-sized length of rope for use in jumping?'"

NCR Sues Palm, Handspring Over Handheld Patent (Reuters)
The Industry Standard

All Your Phrase Are Belong to Mainstream Silliness
Los Angeles Times

NCR Files Suit Against Palm, Handspring (Bloomberg)
San Jose Mercury News

NCR Sues Palm, Handspring on Patents
Internet.com

NCR Is Suing Palm, Handspring Over Alleged Patent Infringement
Wall Street Journal
(Paid subscription required.)

NCR Claims Palm Infringes As 'Personal Terminal'
Slashdot

Portable Personal Terminal for Use in a System for Handling Transactions
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office

System for Handling Transactions Including a Portable Personal Terminal
U.S. Patent & Trademark Office