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Itron, Inc. has redesigned all current products that were found by the jury to infringe in the Minneapolis patent litigation brought by Ralph Benghiat. Itron also has redesigned certain other products as well.
This means that Itron's customers will continue to be able to purchase and use its handheld products with little concern that the court will enjoin their sale or use. As previously announced on December 23, 2002, a federal district court jury in Minneapolis returned a verdict against Itron and held that certain of the company's manual entry handheld meter reading devices infringed a patent owned by Mr. Benghiat. The court has not yet entered its judgment based on the jury's verdict. This is not expected to occur until late March after the court has ruled on a number of post-trial motions.
Itron has received an opinion of independent patent counsel that the redesigned products do not infringe any of the claims of Mr. Benghiat's patent. The redesigned products are expected to be available beginning in late February or early March. In the meantime, Itron will continue to ship its existing handheld devices which are primarily to fulfill current orders because the court has not enjoined their sale. A ruling on whether Mr. Benghiat is entitled to an injunction against the sale or use of existing products, and whether an injunction will be stayed pending an appeal by Itron, is not expected before the court enters its judgment in late March.
According to LeRoy Nosbaum, Itron's chairman and CEO, Itron continues to believe its original products do not infringe Benghiat's patent. "However, once the verdict was entered, a redesign became priority one at Itron." Nosbaum added, "even though we are confident that the judge or appellate court will vindicate our position, we did not want to risk any disruption to the flow of products to our customers."