Cognos to pay Business Objects $24m over patents

29 May 2002 Canadian business intelligence software maker Cognos has agreed to pay French rival Business Objects $24 million (€25.8m) to settle a long-running patent dispute.

Business Objects had claimed in a May 2000 lawsuit that Cognos’ Impromptu-branded database reporting tool infringed its US patent. The suit centred on two features: the use of fields from different tables in analysing business data and the ability to use common English terms in such a product.

Business Objects CEO Bernard Liautaud yesterday welcomed the settlement. “Once again the value of our patented technology has been recognised,” he said.

But Cognos has made no admission of guilt, Cognos CEO Ron Zambonini stressed in a conference call yesterday. “We think that patent is completely invalid and baloney as far as I’m concerned, but we thought it was more prudent to carry on and get a settlement,” he said. “These technical things sometimes confuse juries.”

Liautaud responded: “Contrary to Cognos’ prior claims, we believe that this patent is valid and enforceable.”

Had the matter gone to court, observers said the outcome would have been difficult to predict, given that a US jury may struggle to understand the intricacies of a software patents battle. Such disputes also run the risk of injunctions that could halt sales, they said.

Under the agreement, Cognos and Business Objects have set a five-year moratorium on all patent lawsuits. Cognos will pay $10 million (€10.8m) in an upfront payment, followed by quarterly instalments of $1.75 million (€1.9m) for the next two years.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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