Belgian speech technology vendor Lernout & Hauspie Speech Products is being sued for damages by Alpha Software, a subsidiary of Softquad International, for alleged breach of contract.
Softquad, based in Toronto, Canada, is known as the developer of the popular Hot Metal Internet tool. L&H has responded that the case is ?without merit?, and has said it might counter-sue.
At the heart of the dispute is a contract between Alpha Software and Kurzweil, which was purchased by L&H in April 1997. Kurzweil?s automated speech recognition products, including Kurzweil Voicepad, were marketed in north America by Alpha.
Alpha claims this agreement also gave them the right to distribute the forthcoming VoiceXpress continuous dictation products on which L&H is currently working. VoiceXpress was announced at the Comdex show in November and is expected to ship early next year.
Alpha Software also maintains that its sales have been negatively impacted by the market move away from so-called discrete dictation software (which requires speakers to pause between words) to continuous dictation products such as VoiceXpress and IBM?s Via Voice.
Consequently, Alpha Software is now seeking an estimated $9 to $12 million in damages from L&H for breach of contract.
L&H responded that the claim is meritless. Ellen Spooren, vice president for corporate communications, said: ?Our contract with Alpha Software ends on 1 January 1998. So I don?t see how they could expect to resell a product that won?t be out till the first quarter."
L&H also claimed Alpha still owes the company approximately $1.2 million in payments arising from the disputed contract. Ellen Spooren said L&H decided to handle the distribution of its new continuous dictation products itself, in order to reinforce its brand name.
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