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Friday, May 19, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Business Digest

Irked customer spurs patent study

Amazon.com

At the request of a New Zealand actor upset about a slow book delivery, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is re-examining Amazon.com's patent for "1-Click" online shopping, which allows pre-registered users to buy items with a single click of the mouse.

Actor Peter Calveley sought the reconsideration in documents filed in February, pointing out that a patent for similar technology was issued in March 1998, about 18 months before Amazon's. The Patent Office agreed last week that Calveley had raised a substantial question about the appropriateness of Amazon's patent, documents posted on its Web site show.

Calveley wrote on his blog that his crusade is revenge for an "annoyingly slow" book delivery from Amazon. He used the blog to raise the $2,520 re-examination fee.

Amazon spokeswoman Patty Smith said Thursday that Amazon "remains confident in the validity of its 1-Click patent."

OVP Venture Partners

$207 million raised in funding success

Kirkland-based OVP Venture Partners said Thursday it has raised $207 million for its latest fund, the largest in its 23-year history.

Its seventh venture-capital fund could become even larger over the next few months and will be used to invest in early-stage technology companies.

The fund will be invested in 20 to 25 companies, concentrating on communications, network infrastructure, digital biology, semiconductors, electronics, software and nanotechnology.

OVP has more than $700 million under management.

Straitshot

Network building aim of VC funding

Bellevue-based Straitshot Communications, which helps companies manage wide-area networks, plans to announce today that it has raised $5.5 million in venture capital from Claritage Capital.

The company's second round of funding will be used to build its network, increase customer support and expand sales and marketing.

Microsoft

Security software maker is acquired

Microsoft agreed to buy Whale Communications to add Internet-based security programs that let workers access corporate data from remote locations. Terms were not disclosed.

New Jersey-based Whale's programs allow employees outside a corporate network to use a Web browser to securely view data stored on the network, said Microsoft Vice President Ted Kummert.

Dell

Net income falls; AMD chips coming

Dell's net income fell 18 percent in the first quarter, missing already-reduced forecasts, as the world's largest PC maker struggled with fierce competition from rivals who have gained ground on the company's direct-sales model.

In a related announcement, the company said it will begin using chips from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. for the first time. The AMD Opteron Dual Core processors will be offered in Dell servers by year's end, marking a switch from using only chips from Intel. AMD shares soared more than 13 percent on the news.

Dell earned $762 million, or 33 cents per share in the three months ended May 5, compared to $934 million, or 37 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

That was short of Wall Street analysts, who were expecting 38 cents per share on revenue of $14.5 billion, according to a survey by Thomson Financial.

Dell shares rose 32 cents to $23.95 in regular trading.

Sears Holdings

Profit posted but store sales hurting

Cost-cutting moves helped Sears Holdings post a profit in the first quarter versus a loss a year ago, sending its shares up almost 18 percent.

But same-store sales — a key measure of a retailers' health — continue to languish, and analysts are wondering how the nation's third-largest retailer plans to recapture lost market share amid heightened competition.

Sears beat analysts' estimates and reported a $180 million first-quarter profit Thursday after a $9 million loss during the same period last year. Sears shares climbed $17.89 to close at $155.85.

Milberg Weiss

Firm, 2 partners, others indicted

One of the nation's highest profile class-action law firms, two of its top partners and two other individuals were indicted Thursday by a federal grand jury on charges alleging a scheme that paid millions of dollars in illegal kickbacks to plaintiffs and others.

In a 102-page indictment, New York-based Milberg Weiss, Bershad & Schulman, and attorneys David Bershad and Steven Schulman were charged with secretly paying about $2.4 million to co-defendant Seymour Lazar, a Palm Springs lawyer, and others to act as plaintiffs in class-actions since 1984 and concealing the payments. Paul Seltzer, another lawyer in Palm Springs, was also charged.

The indictment's charges included conspiracy, money laundering and mail fraud.

The charges follow years of investigation into the way Milberg Weiss conducts shareholder lawsuits against major corporations, which the indictment alleges generated hundreds of millions of dollars in attorneys' fees.

Burger King

Shares up 3% in first day

Shares of Burger King's parent company rose 3 percent from their initial-public-offering price Thursday, in their first day of trading.

Burger King Holdings sold 25 million shares of common stock at $17 each in its IPO that was completed late Wednesday. The shares represent about 19 percent of the company's total, putting its overall value at about $2.25 billion.

But that still leaves the nation's second-biggest hamburger chain far behind its two biggest rivals — McDonald's, which has a market value of about $43 billion, and Wendy's, worth about $7 billion.

Its shares rose 50 cents to close at $17.50 on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BKC. They traded as high as $18.15 earlier in the day.

Adobe Systems

New CFO was Sanmina-SCI exec

Adobe Systems, the world's biggest maker of graphic-design software, hired former Sanmina-SCI executive Randy Furr as chief financial officer.

Furr replaces Murray Demo, who announced his retirement in December. Furr left Sanmina-SCI, where he served as chief operating officer, on Oct. 24 for personal reasons. He begins May 30.

The hiring of Furr, 51, follows Adobe's May 2 announcement that second-quarter profit and sales will be at the low end of its forecast, dragged down by a lack of new products until later this year, when the company is expected to update its Acrobat PDF software.

Creative Labs

Apple suit alleges patent infringement

Apple Computer sued smaller rival Creative Technology, raising the stakes in the legal dispute over competing devices.

Apple claims Creative Labs, the U.S. division of Singapore-based Creative Technology, infringes four patents for the display and interface of the hand-held digital players. The suit was filed in a Wisconsin federal court on May 15, the same day Creative filed a patent-infringement suit and a trade complaint against Apple.

"Apple is really going to defend its turf on the iPod," patent lawyer Doug Miro of Ostrolenk, Faber, Gerb & Soffen in New York said Thursday. "They're not going to go down without a fight."

SEC

Bush to nominate Kathleen Casey

President Bush will nominate Kathleen Casey, a Senate aide and expert on banking and securities law, to the five-member Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the White House said Thursday.

The announcement came four days after Cynthia Glassman said she did not intend to serve a second term as a commissioner and will leave after her term ends June 5. That will open one of the three Republican seats on the commission.

Casey is the staff director and counsel for the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Earlier, she was chief of staff and legislative director for the committee's current chairman, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala.

Compiled from The Associated Press, Seattle Times staff and Bloomberg News

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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