In the same week as handheld device manufacturer Handspring hit the Australian market, it and rival Palm, are facing a lawsuit by early handheld developer NCR.
NCR filed a lawsuit early last week that could send ripples through the handheld market, as the company alleges it possesses patents to the types of devices developed by Palm and Handspring.
The company claims to hold two patents governing the creation and sale of handheld devices dating back to 1987, according to documents filed in US District Court in Delaware. NCR is asking the court to order Palm and Handspring to stop selling their handheld devices.
Researchers from NCR developed devices for handling and transmitting data in a manner similar to that of current handheld devices such as the Palm Pilot or the Handspring Visor, the lawsuit says.
NCR wanted to create a device allowing users to enter information for appointments, to-do lists, addresses and to execute shopping transactions - just like handhelds that have flooded the market since then. NCR also contends that it developed the idea of using docking stations where information could be exchanged between a handheld and other machines.
Palm and Handspring should compensate NCR for damages related to past and future sales of devices that allegedly infringe on NCR patents, the lawsuit says.
While NCR were reluctant to elaborate on the charges, Logan Ringland, senior analyst computer hardware research for IDC Australia, claims the lawsuit could have a significant impact on the Australian market.
"The question I would have is where is it going to leave the end user?" said Ringland, concerned over what would happen to the development of Palm and Handsprings' product lines. "I'd also want to know whether NCR will manufacture their own devices."
Even though it claims to hold the patents, NCR did not release consumer handheld devices of its own.
Ringland claims a successful suit would not affect Handspring, having just launched in Australia, as much as it would impact Palm's 50 per cent domination of the market. A conservative IDC forecast had placed handheld sales in the region of around 90,000 units for 2000.