E-commerce patent seeker threat fades

E-commerce patent seeker threat fades

Local e-commerce companies are hopeful that they've seen the last of DE Technologies, the Canadian firm that tried to claim licensing fees from New Zealand e-tailers last year, but the company's CEO claims the matter will be resolved by the courts.

DE Technologies contacted about 15 local retailers and hosting firms in June last year suggesting they were infringing against its e-commerce patent and asking for licensing fees.

The convenor of InternetNZ's patent advisory group, Jim Higgins, said he doubted that DET would try to enforce its patent.

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

DET set a deadline in July 2003 for businesses to respond to its licensing claim, but Higgins said he was not aware of any communication from DET or its lawyers since then.

Discussion has largely moved on from DET's patent, which would "never stand up in court", Higgins said. "I would be really surprised if we hear anything from them."

IP Australia granted the patent in September 2003. The federal government department has not heard from DET since, but the company would be within its rights to try to enforce the patent, according to Janet Werner, acting deputy director general, corporate strategy.

Werner doubted the patent would be as all-encompassing as claimed by opponents to the patent, but there was no way of knowing the scope of the patent until the IP was tested in court, she said.

DET said it intends to collect.

In an email to IDG, chief executive, Ed Pool, said the licensing claim would be resolved by "the proper judicial authorities". "Indeed by the actions of parties engaged in piracy and infringement we are left no other recourse," Pool said, adding that "infringers and pirates" would be held legally accountable.

CEO of e-commerce host WebFarm, Richard Shearer, is unfazed.

"We think it was a bit of a fishing expedition and they seem to have gone away," he sais.

Shearer is sceptical that DET could convince a court that its patent has been infringed.

"We did confirm during our review of the patent that you do need to be infringing all elements of the patent, not just one," he said. Shearer doubts any local website would be affected.

However, the DET saga had alerted the industry about patent issues, Shearer said.

"I think a couple of things have been really good about this," he said. "Firstly, that the industry can work together when it needs to, and I think that's great that people can cast aside their differences and work together.

"The second thing is the Patent Watch site. Previously, it hadn't been in my job description that I had to prepare for patents. Now it appears that it is."

James & Wells, the legal firm that sent letters for e-tailers on DE Technologies' behalf, refused to comment on DET's intentions.

With Steven Deare.

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