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Sun Microsystems Inc. has agreed to pay Eastman Kodak Co. $92 million to settle a patent dispute that Kodak had said was worth 10 times as much. The companies reached the agreement Wednesday night, hours before a Rochester, N.Y., federal jury was to begin hearing arguments in the damages phase of the dispute. Last week, the jury found that Sun infringed three Kodak patents. The photography giant was seeking $1 billion in damages. Although the award is much less than what Kodak had sought, patent lawyers said it is perhaps more than a jury would have awarded. Kodak claimed Sun’s Java programming language infringed its patents, which cover a method by which programs can ask for help from another application to carry out computer functions. Under the agreement, Sun will pay $92 million in cash in return for a license to the technology. “We achieved our goal in the case, which was to protect our intellectual property rights,” said Kodak spokesman Jim Blamphin. Kodak has licensed the patents at issue to Microsoft Corp., IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. Sun is the only company it has sued for infringing the patents. Sun’s counsel in the liability phase, Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati partner Ron Shulman, could not be reached for comment. Lloyd “Rusty” Day Jr., who was representing Sun in the damages trial, also was not available to discuss the case. “We are eager to put this punitive litigation behind us, to have reached a decision in the best interest of our stockholders, customers and employees, and to focus our future activities on the evolution of the Internet and Sun’s place within it,” said Sun’s president and chief operating officer, Jonathan Schwartz. For Sun, a settlement of about 10 percent of what Kodak had sought “seems like a pretty good deal,” said Glenn Peterson, a partner at Sacramento’s McDonough Holland & Allen. But it’s a good, safe bet for Kodak, too. “If the jury said damages were $2 million, it would have turned a big win into a de facto loss for Kodak,” Peterson said. Another patent litigator who requested anonymity said that while patent cases do settle for more than $92 million, not many juries have issued verdicts of that magnitude in patent disputes. “There are not 20 patent cases with jury verdict damages of more than that in the last five years,” the litigator said. “When you analyze getting $100 million real money at present value versus a speculative [amount] down the road, it’s probably a win-win for both sides.”

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