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Y2K Patent Holders Teaming Up

February 10, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) _ Two software developers who have patents covering Y2K fixes will jointly try to collect thousands, perhaps millions of dollars from the nation’s top businesses.

Their effort to collect licensing fees is likely to face skepticism. The government is already reviewing one patent after critics complained that the repair method it covers is unoriginal.

The Y2K glitch stems from a programming shortcut of using only two digits for a year, leaving a computer confused about the correct century.

Thomas B. Soeder, who runs a software company in Columbia, Md., said he has three patents and two pending applications covering a repair technique called compression. It uses computer coding to fit four digits worth of data into the space for two digits.

He is teaming with Bruce Dickens, who owns the patent for a more popular fix called windowing, which involves tricking the computer into thinking the century change is decades away.

``I always felt that one and one makes three,″ Soeder said Wednesday. ``There’s some strength in numbers here.″

William C. Cray, an attorney representing the partnership, said patents still apply even if companies already completed their fixes for the new year. He said licenses will be sold as a package. Fees are still being worked out, but presumably they be in the millions of dollars.

Last fall, Dickens sent letters seeking licensing fees from Fortune 500 and Information Week 500 companies. The companies balked, claiming the idea was already in use before the government granted the patent in 1998. The Patent and Trademark Office is reviewing the patent.

Kazim Isfahani, a Y2K analyst with Giga Information Group, called the partnership by Dickens and Soeder ``another shot in the dark, another attempt to hijack some organizations with deep pockets.″

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