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It didn’t take the easiest path toward an amicable agreement, but a $40 million digital camera licensing deal between Ampex Corp. and Sony Corp. has given Fish & Neave’s lawyers in Palo Alto, Calif., and New York reason to grin. The agreement untangles one corner of a litigious digital camera technology web that has ensnared Ampex, Sony and Eastman Kodak, said Fish & Neave partner Norman Beamer. He and senior attorney Gabrielle Higgins — both based in Palo Alto — represented Redwood City, Calif.-based Ampex, which has taken legal action against Sony and other companies that it says are illegally using technology that it has licensed. Beamer and Higgins said the increasingly popular digital camera technology has generated several patent disputes in which Ampex has generally prevailed. “It’s been a successful run for Ampex in terms of licensing up some of the bigger patents out there in digital still cameras,” said Higgins. The deal came about after Ampex filed a claim against Sony with the International Trade Commission and a suit in Delaware federal court. “The case settled at the very earliest stage,” said Beamer. The $40 million licensing fee Sony will pay Ampex will cover use of the technology through 2006. Ampex will receive royalties for subsequent use. While Ampex and Sony are no longer at odds, both companies are facing other litigation over similar digital camera technology. Ampex hopes to get a similar licensing arrangement out of a suit against Eastman Kodak Co., while Kodak and Sony are countersuing each other in separate litigation, Beamer said. Since digital cameras have enjoyed a popularity surge in recent years, the technology — originally developed by Kodak, Beamer said — has prompted a series of new patents and resulting suits. The disputes are likely to continue for Ampex, which has been a Fish & Neave client since the mid-1980s. “It’s a productive area that’s been burgeoning over the past few years,” he added. While Beamer said he hopes other camera companies will agree to licensing agreements before a suit is necessary, he said his client is not afraid to sue. “They are a very active licensing company, and they litigate when they have to,” he said. Fish & Neave partner Jesse Jenner also worked on the deal from the firm’s New York office, along with attorneys from Steptoe & Johnson’s Washington, D.C., office. Douglas Henderson, of Finnegan Henderson Farabow Garrett & Dunner, represented Sony.

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