11 , 2000
Late yesterday, Adobe announced it had filed a lawsuit against Macromedia, claiming that Macromedia infringes on its patented technology. The technology? Tabs. More specifically, the little tabs in palettes that users navigate through a program.
The lawsuit stems from years of insistence on Adobe's part that it does, in fact, own exclusive rights to this interface element. According to Macromedia, Adobe first informed them of this back in 1996. Adobe further insisted on the point last year. Both times Macromedia refused to accept Adobe's claims. In a prepared statement, Macromedia said it "categorically denies the claims made in a lawsuit filed ... by Adobe Systems Inc. The claim alleges patent infringement relating to user interface features of Macromedia products. Macromedia believes the claims made in the Adobe lawsuit are without merit. The company believes that U.S. Patent No. 5,546,528 is invalid and unenforceable and that Macromedia does not violate the patent."
Adobe, meanwhile, has set up a whole Web site (http://www.adobefacts.com) dedicated to proving its point. Among other things, the site shows side by side examples of Adobe's and Macromedia's interfaces.
Adobe also published a letter from Chairman and CEO John Warnock and President Bruce Chizen. The letter states: "Macromedia's infringement is long standing, flagrant, and involves a pattern of violations as well as public statements that indicate its intent to continue to infringe our patent. The most recent and obvious examples are Macromedia's announcements in July 2000 of a new user interface and its incorporation into Flash 5 and its entire product line. The premise of our lawsuit is simple: we are asking Macromedia to stop infringing our patent."
The letter continues: "The decision to file this lawsuit was difficult. We looked closely at what it might mean to employees, customers, and stockholders. We do not commonly litigate, however, we warned Macromedia repeatedly, but they ignored those warnings. Finally, we decided that we had no other recourse. Not taking action now would potentially have greater negative implications in the future."
Among the products Adobe claims infringe on their patent are the as-yet-unreleased Flash 5 and Freehand. Both applications preceded Adobe's own LiveMotion and Illustrator, although Freehand, when launched, was owned by Aldus, not Macromedia.
We'll bring you more as the situation develops.
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