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A federal jury ordered the nation’s leading provider of on-demand book printing to pay $15 million for patent infringement to the company that created the concept. The verdict could mean consumers who follow certain steps when ordering such books online — which are printed, bound and covered within minutes — also may be infringing on the patent, said William Cunningham, a lawyer for the plaintiff, On Demand Machine Corp. The three defendants said they would appeal the judgment. Lightning Source Inc. of La Vergne, Tenn.; its parent company, Ingram Industries, of Nashville, Tenn.; and Seattle-based Amazon.com had argued the patent wasn’t valid and there was no infringement. On Demand Machine Corp., a startup company founded by systems engineer Harvey Ross, filed the lawsuit in October 2001. Ross died three months later. Ross was 68 in 1990 when he developed the idea that a customer could enter a bookstore kiosk, type a book title into a computer and access a synopsis, sales and other information before clicking on a command that would produce a printed, bound and covered book within minutes. In the early 1990s, Xerox Corp. demonstrated that Ross’ technology produced a book as good as an offset-printed version, which is made in large batches. But Xerox wanted $2.2 million to build a prototype. Ross won his patent in 1995. When Xerox challenged parts of it, he returned to the U.S. Patent Office in 1997 to have its critical parts affirmed. In 1996, Ingram Industries, whose book division is the leading wholesaler and distributor of books, refused Ross’s offer of partnership. The following year, Ingram announced Lightning Source, which began printing books on demand in January 1998 in a large production facility, rather than a bookstore setting Ross had envisioned. Its customers are publishers and retail book sellers. Ross informed Lightning Source that it needed a license from him and that it owed him some royalties, but the company refused, Cunningham said. Ross and his company sued, seeking damages they said amounted to no less than what would have been a reasonable royalty. Wednesday’s judgment is “considerably” more than the parties would have had to pay in royalties, Cunningham said. “He’d be pleased,” Cunningham said of his late client. “It’s vindication for 12 years of work.” Ingram spokesman Keel Hunt said “we certainly disagree with this decision.” Amazon.com declined to comment. Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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