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    Retailers Settle Patent Lawsuit, Enters into License Agreement

    The licensed technologies make possible such services as telephone prescription refill requests.

    Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing, L.P. said yesterday it had come to a settlement of patent litigation with several retail, manufacturing, and insurance companies, including Ahold USA, Costco, Kroger, CVS, and Rite Aid Corp.

    As part of the settlement, the companies will pay an undisclosed sum for a nonexclusive license under a comprehensive portfolio of patents that Katz owns relating to interactive voice applications. The portfolio is licensed through A2D, L.P.

    The separate licenses cover services provided by the companies and their subsidiaries in the automated health care services and/or product/service support fields. These services, such as customer service and, more specifically, refilling of prescriptions, are delivered through automated systems as well as the combination of automated systems and live agents. Other terms of the licenses weren't revealed.

    "The pharmacies in our stores offer shoppers one-stop access for health, nutrition and dietary goods and services," said Ahold USA. "Offering quick, easy and secure telephone refill requests are another key component of our focus on our shoppers. The technologies in the Katz portfolio describe some of the basic processes that make telephone prescription refill requests work."

    The patents held by Los Angeles-based Ronald A. Katz Technology Licensing cover a wide range of interactive technology, including automated forms of customer service, prescription refill services, securities trading, merchandising, prepaid services, telephone conferences, registration, and home shopping, along with functions involved in securing information from databases by telephone, interactive cable transactions, and other uses of toll free and local numbers.

    Other companies buying the licenses include Aetna, Inc.; CIGNA Corp.; UnitedHealth Group; and Whirlpool Corp.

    "In North America alone, we estimate that over 1 billion automated prescription refill requests are being processed over the phone each year, virtually all of which utilize technology claimed in these patents," noted Ronald A. Katz, inventor of the technology in the licensed patents.

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