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CD burner patent case knocked out and 'kicked upstairs'

A US Court has ruled against a storage company in its patent action against Napster's owner over software that allows computer users to burn files onto recordable CDs. Optima Technology described the judge's reasoning as "senseless".28 Oct 2005

Optima filed the suit in 2003 against Roxio, the company behind the re-launch of the Napster brand as a licensed seller of digital music. Optima accused Roxio of inducing or contributing to the infringement of Optima’s patent rights by making and selling software that enables others to use the patented technology.

Sonic Solutions, which bought Roxio's consumer software division last year (at which time Roxio announced that it was changing its own name to Napster), said on Wednesday that it has been granted summary judgment but Optima immediately vowed to appeal.

Judge James Selna in the US District Court for the Central District of California concluded that "no reasonable fact finder could find infringement" of Optima's patent through the software.

"While we assume that Optima will appeal its loss, we are gratified that the Court has so thoroughly validated our position in rejecting Optima's claims,” said Paul Norris, Sonic's Senior Vice President and General Counsel. “We now plan to assess and pursue any claims we have against Optima with all appropriate vigour."

Optima was highly critical of Judge Selna.

“We feel this is a prime example of how a judge can make a mistake by not following his own prior rulings which lay out the ground rules related to terms in intellectual property cases," said CEO Robert Adams. "For a judge to simply adopt terms not laid out in his own Markman ruling is senseless."

In a Markman ruling, a judge provides clarification and interpretations of complex patent claims. Optima says that Judge Selna ignored his own Markman ruling and followed Roxio's statements instead – which Optima considers incorrect.

Optima is appealing the ruling to the Federal Court of Appeals.

Adams said, "If Judge Selna did not feel up to the legal and technical challenges of our case, he should have had it assigned to another Judge instead of kicking it upstairs for the Court of Appeals to deal with. This further clogs our courts and appeals systems."

Optima will ask the Federal Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Selna's decision and to impose a temporary restraining order to bar Napster, Roxio and Sonic Solutions from again merging and/or selling parts of their companies.

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