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Tuesday, May 16, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Microsoft accuses Lucent of violating patents

Microsoft has accused Lucent Technologies of infringing its patents, upping the ante in a broader dispute.

Telephone-equipment maker Lucent sued computer makers Dell and Gateway in 2003, claiming they infringed patents for inventions such as color memory, video-search functions and for controlling a computer with a stylus. Microsoft, which had pledged to cover the costs incurred by customers Dell and Gateway, filed a suit later to invalidate the patents or get a ruling that they weren't infringed.

In April, Lucent sued Microsoft, alleging its Xbox 360 video-game system infringed a Lucent patent for video-decoding technology.

In court papers Monday, Microsoft countered with the claim that Lucent infringed 10 of its patents.

Loudeye

Brilliant Digital settles lawsuit

Brilliant Digital Entertainment, which distributes file-sharing software, has settled a lawsuit with Loudeye over claims an anti-piracy tactic the company used violated Brilliant Digital patents.

Terms of the settlement weren't disclosed by Brilliant Digital's Altnet subsidiary in a statement distributed Monday. Claims against the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and a unit of SafeNet will proceed, Los Angeles-based Altnet said.

Brilliant Digital sued the companies and RIAA in 2004, claiming they violated patents for identifying files on computer networks when the RIAA asked units of Seattle-based Loudeye and SafeNet to "spoof" peer-to-peer users with bogus or corrupted files in an attempt to make it more difficult to use the file-sharing systems.

Boeing

Small carrier plans to buy four 787s

Israel's Arkia Airlines said it was in advanced talks to buy four Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft as part of its strategy to expand service to North America and Asia.

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Arkia, a privately held small carrier that flies domestic routes and to some European destinations, said Monday it was looking to make the deal in two stages by buying two 300-seat 787s for $280 million with an option for two more.

It said it expected to sign the deal later in May.

American Seafoods

Profit plummets at parent company

Net income fell sharply at the parent of Seattle-based American Seafoods, one of the nation's largest seafood companies.

ASG Consolidated reported profit of $1.6 million for the quarter ended March 31, down from $29.8 million in last year's first quarter. Sales were down 20 percent to $121.6 million, the company reported in an SEC filing for its publicly traded debt securities.

ASG blamed most of the sales decline on delays that postponed some revenue from at-sea processing of pollock roe into the second quarter. It said $20 million to $25 million in additional sales from first-quarter processing would be reported in the current quarter.

Target

Rising expenses cut into higher profit

Discount retailer Target said first-quarter profit rose 12 percent, but the results narrowly missed Wall Street estimates and its shares fell 4 percent.

Investors were spooked as profit margins shrank and selling and administrative expenses rose faster than sales.

Target said Monday that it earned $554 million, or 63 cents per share, for the quarter ended April 29, up from $494 million, or 55 cents per share, during the same period last year. The latest results were a penny a share below the estimate of analysts polled by Thomson Financial.

First-quarter revenue rose 12.1 percent to $12.86 billion, from $11.5 billion a year ago. But expenses grew 15.3 percent to almost $2.9 billion.

IBM

IBM touting capacity of new, denser tapes

Researchers at International Business Machines say a new method for cramming data onto magnetic tape will increase storage capacity at least 15 times, enough to squeeze the text from 8 million books onto a cartridge half the size of a VHS tape.

Scientists at IBM's Almaden Research Center in San Jose, Calif., planned to announce today that they have invented a process for stuffing 6.67 billion bits into a square inch of tape and 8 terabytes — roughly 8 trillion bytes — on a single cartridge. They contend that would be 15 to 20 times denser than today's industry-standard tape products.

IBM worked with Fuji Photo Film to change the material that makes up the tape, and also improved the way data can be read and written.

SEC

Departure will leave vacancy on SEC

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Cynthia Glassman will depart the agency after the end of her current term, leaving a Republican vacancy on the five-member commission.

The resignation will give President Bush an opportunity to further shape an agency that regulates corporate America.

Glassman, 59, served under three Republican chairmen. She and fellow Republican Commissioner Paul Atkins resisted regulations that Chairman Christopher Cox's predecessor at the SEC, Republican William Donaldson, pushed through with the support of the agency's two Democratic commissioners. Bush appointed Glassman in January 2002.

DaimlerChrysler

High court upholds tax breaks for plant

In a victory for business, the Supreme Court on Monday rebuffed the efforts of a group of taxpayers in Toledo, Ohio, to challenge nearly $300 million in tax breaks for DaimlerChrysler's new Jeep plant.

Chief Justice John Roberts said in the 9-0 decision that the alleged injury to the taxpayers was mere conjecture and that they had no standing to challenge tax or spending decisions "simply by virtue of their status as taxpayers."

DaimlerChrysler called the ruling "a big win for America" and said Congress and the states should seek legislation to reinforce the ability to use tax incentives as a tool to compete for investment and jobs.

China's currency

Exchange rate tops 8 per dollar

China's official exchange rate broke through the psychologically important 8-yuan-per-dollar level Monday, its highest level in more than a decade, in a move traders said might signal Beijing's willingness to allow its currency to appreciate faster.

Analysts said the U.S. government's decision to not formally accuse China of manipulating its currency in a semiannual report last Wednesday may have freed Beijing to let the yuan rise further.

The yuan's gain affected currency trading elsewhere, spurring traders to sell dollars for yen due to Japan's proximity to China.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Reuters and Seattle Times staff

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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