Jury rules against Itron in patent litigation

Dec. 24, 2002
Itron Inc. announced Monday that a jury found that Itron's manual entry handheld meter reading devices infringed a patent owned by Ralph Benghiat, an individual.

Spokane, Wash., December 23, 2002 - Itron Inc. announced Monday that a jury in Minneapolis returned a verdict against Itron and found that Itron's manual entry handheld meter reading devices infringed a patent owned by Ralph Benghiat, an individual.

The jury awarded Benghiat damages in an amount just under 8 million dollars. The patent litigation which began in March 1999 was tried in the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota (Civil Case No. 99-cv-501).

The jury also determined that Itron's infringement was willful. As such, Benghiat may ask the court to triple the damages award and reimburse Benghiat for his reasonable attorney's fees. At this time Itron does not know whether Benghiat will ask the court for enhanced damages or whether he will ask the court to enjoin future sales of infringing devices until his patent expires in July 2005.

However, in deciding whether to grant an injunction, the court will take into account the fact that Benghiat does not make or sell the patented invention, does not compete with Itron and the impact on Itron's customers. Itron continues to believe that its products do not infringe the Benghiat patent and has been so advised by its legal counsel. Any appeal of the jury's decision must be made to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington D.C.

There can be no assurance, however, that Itron would prevail on appeal. "We are stunned by the jury's determination of infringement and especially in its finding of willful infringement, particularly since Benghiat did not bring his patent to our attention until ten years after it issued," commented LeRoy Nosbaum, Itron chairman and CEO.

"Itron conducts its business in accordance with high ethical standards and, as a result we do not believe the facts support a finding of any infringement, much less willful infringement."

Nosbaum commented that the infringement issue does not affect any customers using Itron's handheld meter reading devices or any of its other products. "If we appeal the jury decision and do not prevail, we expect to be in a financial position to absorb the jury's award without a material adverse effect on our long-term results," Nosbaum said.

About Itron: Itron is a technology provider and critical source of knowledge to the global energy and water industries. More than 2,000 utilities worldwide rely on Itron technology to deliver the knowledge they require to optimize the delivery and use of energy and water.

Itron delivers value to its clients by providing industry-leading solutions for meter data collection, energy information management, demand side management and response, load forecasting, analysis and consulting services, transmission and distribution system design and optimization, web-based workforce automation, C&I customer care and residential energy management.

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