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Imax Corp. was none too happy when a startup announced it had developed technology to convert 2-D movies into the 3-D format. So Imax, which already shows 3-D movies in its giant-screen theaters, went after In-Three Inc. for patent infringement. The twist, though, is that Imax bought the patent at issue from two inventors so it could sue In-Three. “In my experience it’s very unusual” for a company to do this, said In-Three’s attorney, Heidi Keefe, a partner at White & Case’s Palo Alto, Calif., office. “It’s more common to go out and buy a patent defensively.” In January, In-Three announced the first public screenings of a movie using its technology — James Cameron’s underwater documentary “Aliens of the Deep.” Two months later Imax filed suit, claiming the technology infringed a patent issued to two inventors in 1990. Imax said the inventors had assigned it rights to the patent, although it did not specify when. Imax hasn’t been successful in enforcing the patent, though. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the Central District of California denied the company’s request for a preliminary injunction against In-Three, finding that Imax was unlikely to prevail in its infringement claims. Imax’s attorney, Chad Hummel, a partner at Los Angeles’ Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, could not be reached for comment. In-Three has countersued Imax for infringing three of its patents. Cooper called into question the validity of one of the three patents and denied In-Three’s motion for a preliminary injunction against Imax. Keefe said In-Three has also asked the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to re-examine the patent Imax is asserting. “We’ve found prior art that invalidates it,” she said. In the meantime, In-Three has plenty to grin about. George Lucas, Robert Zemeckis, James Cameron and other Hollywood directors donned 3-D glasses in March to pitch In-Three’s technology at ShoWest, the motion picture industry’s annual convention.

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