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Business in brief: Microsoft settlement OK’d


A federal judge signed off on a $1.53 billion jury verdict in favor of Alcatel-Lucent SA in a digital music patent dispute against Microsoft Corp.

U.S. District Court Judge Rudi M. Brewster in San Diego entered his judgment Monday, concluding Microsoft’s Windows Media Player software infringed on patents owned by Lucent Technologies Inc., a U.S. telecommunications equipment maker acquired last year by France-based Alcatel.

The damages were awarded by a jury in February.

Microsoft spokesman Guy Esnouf said the company would challenge the ruling during a June 20 hearing.

Liberty Lake

Itron net income up slightly

Liberty Lake-based Itron Inc. reported first quarter net income grew slightly to $7.18 million from a year-earlier profit of $7.07 million on fewer shares outstanding.

The company, which provides products and services for the utilities industry, reported earnings of 26 cents per share, down from 27 cents one year earlier, on fewer shares outstanding.

Total revenue declined nearly 5 percent to $147.9 million, from $155.6 million in first quarter 2006.

In a conference call, company officials forecast second-quarter revenue of $370 million to $390 million, and 2007 earnings of $2.60 to $2.90 a share, excluding items, on revenue of $1.4 billion to $1.43 billion.

Coeur d’Alene

Hecla nets $8.1 million

Higher metals prices helped Hecla Mining Co. post a net income of $8.1 million during the first quarter, which amounted to 7 cents per share.

Silver prices averaged $13.31 per ounce during the first quarter, and gold, lead and zinc were also trading higher.

Credits for lead and zinc production actually led to a negative costs of $1.12 for each ounce of silver mined during the first quarter, said Phil Baker, Hecla’s president and chief executive officer.

The company produced 1.6 million ounces of silver during the first quarter, and more than 36,000 ounces of gold. About half of the silver was produced at the Lucky Friday Mine in Mullan, Idaho.

Hecla’s first-quarter results compared to a net income of $38.4 million during the first quarter of 2006, which included a one-time gain of $36.4 million from the sale of investments.

San Francisco

Apple promises less-toxic iPods

Apple Inc. Chief Executive Steve Jobs fired back at environmentalists Wednesday, saying the maker of the ubiquitous iPod is an industry leader in removing toxic chemicals from its products and promoting recycling.

Apple plans to completely eliminate the use of arsenic in all of its displays by the end of 2008, and the company will eventually stop using mercury and will transition to LED backlighting whenever possible, Jobs wrote in a five-page memo published on the company’s Web site.


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