Stamps.com Sues Pitney Bowes Over Patents

Stamps.com (Nasdaq: STMP) said Thursday that it has filed a lawsuit against Pitney Bowes (NYSE: PBI), alleging that the postage-equipment giant is infringing its Internet-postage patents.

“We are committed to strategically managing our intellectual property portfolio to enhance shareholder value,” said Stamps.com chief executive officer Bruce Coleman in announcing the suit.

Stamps.com said the four patents in question cover technology invented by Salim Kara, founder of the now-defunct E-Stamp.

Stamps.com acquired E-Stamp’s domain name and other assets,including 31 patents and trademarks, after E-Stamp said it would get out of the Net postage business altogether and merged with Learn2.com to work in the e-learning market.

Long Battle

Pitney Bowes, which has patent-infringement suits of its own againstStamps.com dating back to 1999, said the new suit “appears to be adiversionary tactic intended to shift attention from Pitney Bowes’legitimate patent-infringement claims against Stamps.com for both Internetpostage and shipping technologies.”

Pitney Bowes also said it has not yet received a copy of the Stamps.com complaint. However, Stamps.com spokeswoman Kathleen Brush told the E-Commerce Times that Stamps.com’s lawsuit is not a response to the pending Pitney Bowes lawsuits.

“It’s not a counterclaim of any type,” Brush said. “We’re suing them for patent infringement.”

The Pitney Bowes lawsuits against Stamps.com involve both online postage and shipping patents. In September, Pitney Bowes said Stamps.com was infringing on fourshipping patents, including one covering the use of electronic datainterchange (EDI) for tracking and rate information.

High-Tech Plans

Also Thursday, Pitney Bowes said it plans to “transform” the global mailingindustry with a new networked platform for its mailing systems, taking a US$200million to $250 million charge to second-quarter earnings to cover thetransition from older technology.

Pitney Bowes said it plans to develop technology that “turns the postagemeter into an intelligent terminal that networks the mailer to postal andcarrier information and systems.”

The new system will also make it easier to offer shipping-related services, such as package tracking, delivery confirmation and rate information, the company said.

Sticky Business

Stamford, Connecticut-based Pitney Bowes took a step forward in the Internetpostage business in March 2000, when it announced that the U.S.Postal Service had approved its ClickStamp online postage system. As of that time, the company had already filed its patent-infringement suits against both E-Stamp and Stamps.com.

When Stamps.com spent $7.5 million to buy the E-Stamp assets in April, it said the deal would boost its position in the fast-growing Internet postage andshipping markets.

“Combined with our existing intellectual property assets,the E-Stamp patents and trademarks provide us with a technology portfolioand brand recognition that places the company solidly at the forefront ofInternet postage providers,” Coleman said after the acquisition.

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