Stamps.com Inc. recently settled a patent infringement lawsuit with a Minnesota company over the stamp company's use of the two-dimensional bar code that appears on each personalized stamp.


VCode Holdings Inc. is a subsidiary of Newport Beach-based Acacia Research Corp., a company that acquires and licenses patents. Acacia has been aggressively pursuing patent infringement cases for its portfolios. The portfolios are made up of a loose network of companies and inventors spread across the United States. Each has a patented technology in their pocket and many have an ax to grind.


Acacia first sued Stamps.com in October of 2004, accusing Stamps of using the patented barcode technology without a license. At the time, Stamps said it intended to "defend the lawsuit vigorously," according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing. But last week, the stamp maker agreed to settle the suit and enter into a licensing agreement with Acacia. The financial terms of the agreement are confidential, according to Rob Berman, chief operating officer and general counsel of Acacia. In a press release, however, Stamps.com called the settlement amount "immaterial."


"What Stamps.com considers immaterial and what we consider immaterial are two very different things," Berman said.


Acacia's licensing agreements typically involve one-time settlement fees that vary based on the size of the company involved, Berman said. Stamps.com declined to comment further on the settlement.


Acacia has successfully pursued licensing agreements or patent infringement lawsuits for the barcode technology with corporate giants such as Advanced Micro Devices Corp., Boston Scientific Corp., Adidas America Inc., Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Inc., and Automatic Data Processing Inc.


Acacia makes a nice living with its patent-infringement pursuits, bringing in $19.6 million in revenues last year. It is continuously acquiring new patents and now controls 42 portfolios and more than 160 patents.


Vitesse Options
Vitesse Semiconductor Corp. abruptly canceled its second-quarter earnings call days after it suspended three top executives. The Camarillo computer chip maker announced that Chief Executive Louis Tomasetta, Chief Financial Officer Yatin Mody and Executive Vice President Eugene Hovanec are on administrative leave following an internal investigation into stock options grants. The earnings conference call has yet to be rescheduled, and the company's financial statements for the quarter ended March 31 will be delayed past the May 10 due date, the company said in a statement.


The company has installed Chris Gardner, general manager of the network products division, as interim president and CEO.


Vitesse is looking into the timing and accounting of certain stock options grants, and warned that an earnings restatement may be in order depending on the outcome of the investigation. According to a December SEC filing, Tomasetta was granted 1.8 million stock options as part of his compensation in 2005. His base salary was about $388,000. Hovanec was granted 450,000 stock options on a salary of about $246,000. Mody was granted 400,000 stock options and a salary of about $197,000. The exercise price for those options is $2.58 per share.


Vitesse shares plunged more than 30 percent on the news, to $2.34 per share. The stock improved to the mid-$2-range by the end of the week.


Staff reporter Hilary Potkewitz can be reached at (323) 549-5225 ext. 226 or by e-mail at hpotkewitz@labusinessjournal.com .

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