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Talon Industries Wins Judgment Against Fluke

SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Talon Industries, a small San Dimas high-tech company, has won an unusual $6-million malicious prosecution judgment against a much larger rival that unsuccessfully sued Talon for patent infringement.

The verdict, announced Friday by a Los Angeles jury, marks the end of a nine-year legal battle that began when Fluke Corp. accused Talon of using its design for a microprocessor simulator that is used to test computer equipment. Talon was found not guilty of patent infringement in 1992.

Talon would have laid the matter to rest at that point if Fluke had agreed to reimburse the company’s substantial legal fees, said Robert Corby, Talon’s president and founder. When Fluke refused, Talon filed the malicious prosecution suit in 1993.

“We’re obviously disappointed with the outcome,” said Gary Ball, manager of investor relations for Everett, Wash.-based Fluke Corp., which is considering an appeal.

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On Monday, Corby said the verdict would help make up for the four years of “dead flat” sales the company suffered while the patent infringement case was languishing in court. Despite the large award, “I think we’d have been better off it we’d never been sued,” Corby said.

The case involved a microprocessor board tester that Talon sold to PC makers such as IBM and Compaq Computer. Talon took the product off the market in 1991 to avoid inviting any more lawsuits, Corby said. Now the company makes bus emulators, which are used to test large electronics systems.

Fluke Corp. designs and sells electronic test and measurement instruments and systems. The company has 2,500 employees and recorded $414 million in sales for 1996. Talon is a privately held firm with 15 employees.

“I feel very good,” Corby said. “It’s been nine years and cost us $1 million [in legal fees] to get here.”


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