Dutch PC maker takes Dell to trial over patents

Dutch PC maker takes Dell to trial over patents

A patent infringement case brought by Dutch PC maker Tulip Computers International against Dell Computer will go to trial on June 23.

Tulip of Amersfoort, Netherlands, sued Dell in November 2000, charging the direct seller with copying a patented motherboard design and using it for its Optiplex desktop computers from 1997.

The Optiplex was first introduced in 1994.

Dell, the world's second largest PC vendor, has been fighting Tulip's claims in court, but has not been able to prevent the case from going to trial.

The US District Court for the District of Delaware is planning to take nine days for the jury trial, Tulip said in a statement.

It is seeking unspecified royalties and damages.

The company said at the time of filing that the infringement covered $US17 billion of Dell's sales over the three years preceding the filing.

License fees for the use of patents of this type generally amounted to between 1 and 5 per cent of the revenue they helped generate, Tulip said.

The patent is for a motherboard design with a specially placed expansion card slot that helps PC makers build smaller desktop computers, improve cooling of the system and reduce the number of connections on a motherboard, according to a April 30, 2002, opinion from the Delaware court on the case.

The court at the time ordered Dell to cooperate with Tulip's discovery of facts for the case.

The design was useful when computers were transitioning from the 16-bit to 32-bit standard because the expansion slot could accommodate cards that support both.

Dell told the court that the invention was of "minor character" and "inconsequential", according to the court document.

Tulip was once one of the Netherlands' high-tech prides, but has been struggling to stay afloat.

The company sells notebooks, servers and PCs, mainly in Europe. On October 31, 2002, Tulip reported an operating loss of $US3.8 million for the first six months of 2002 against a loss of $US1.2 million for the same period in 2001. Sales for the period were $US32.1 million, compared to $US53.4 million in 2001.

Representatives at Dell were not immediately available for comment.

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