Pitney Bowes Targeted by Justice Department, Files Suit Against Stamps.com

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Pitney Bowes Inc., Santa Monica, CA, is under fire for possible exclusionary tactics, according to a spokeswoman at the U.S. Department of Justice's Antitrust Division, which is conducting the investigation against the company.

The specific markets named in the investigation were postage meters and online postage services. Stamps.com Inc., Santa Monica, CA, an online stamp concern, announced this week that it would comply fully with the terms of a subpoena it received June 17 from the Justice Department.

Sheryl Battles, a spokeswoman for Pitney Bowes, acknowledged that it has been served with a Civil Investigation Demand, adding that the Justice Department may be reviewing Pitney Bowes' own efforts to protect its intellectual property rights.

"We believe we've complied fully with the antitrust laws, and are confident this inquiry will be resolved favorably," she said. "We believe this is a type of inquiry that a company in our position may face from time to time and reflects our success in the postage evidencing field."

She also said Pitney Bowes has "gone though several of these inquiries in the past 20 years, all of which have concluded with no action being taken by the Justice Department."

Pitney Bowes recently filed suit against Stamps.com, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware.

The complaint, issued June 16, charges Stamps.com with infringement of Pitney Bowes' patents related to postage application systems and electronic indicia. Pitney Bowes is currently trying to reach an agreement with Stamps.com to avoid litigation and "allow [Stamps.com] to use Pitney Bowes patented inventions in their product," said Battles.

Stamps.com defends its position against Pitney Bowes. "Once again, the Internet changes everything," said John M. Payne, president/CEO of Stamps.com. "This is a classic case where an industry is turned upside down as traditional manufactured products can be replaced by low cost services available widely over the national infrastructure of the Internet. We do not believe the Pitney Bowes lawsuit has any merit and we intend to aggressively defend our position."

This claim from Pitney Bowes comes on the heels of a similar complaint, also filed in Delaware in June, against E-Stamp Corp., San Mateo, CA, alleging infringement of seven of Pitney Bowes' patents.

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