I had essentially
bet my company on this Model 360. It was not too unusual for me since
I had literally been betting the company on each new product for 20
years. But the stakes got higher each time. Anyway, because of my
independent position I could be a bit nonchalant about the whole thing
in contrast to the HP managers, who had all kinds of pressure on them
and were doing some really strange things as a result.
Probably the strangest episode of our long competition with HP was
the Santa Rosa urinal affair. The Santa Rosa engineers had duplicated
a WILTRON logohad placed a waterproof version of this logo in
an upright position in the urinal. Everybody could thus take it out
This was amusing enough in its own right but, further just to show
the paranoia of HP in general, their attorney in charge of patents
and copyrights found out what was being done and feared prosecution
by WILTRON for unauthorized use of our copyrighted logo.
The situation couldnt have gotten any more comicalWILTRONs
honor rescued by Hewlett-Packards Intellectual Property Lawyer.
This was a humorous sidelight in what was a serious legal battle between
our two companies.
The whole legal battle started when WILTRONs Pete Lacy came
up with a network analyzer that was better than anything that had
been done beforea real lifesaver for engineers trying to design
phase array radars. These were radars that came out toward the end
of the cold war with Russia but had never really been tried out in
full-scale combat. Pete procrastinated, but finally I made him get
a patent on our analyzer.
Since HP clearly usurped the patent two years later, I had them dutifully
notified of that fact. When HP stone-walled us, we had to either sue
them or shut up. At this critical moment Pete Lacy avowed that we
had been a few months late in applying for our patent, that he had
made premature disclosure of our invention and that our patent would
probably not stand up. I decided under the circumstances not to sue
a giant company that had infinitely more resources than we did.
The ironic thing then was that Hewlett-Packard proceeded to get patents
on a lot of the tiny features of their network analyzer, so when we
at WILTRON came out with our second generation, we inevitably used
some of the features described in the HP patent, features that we
felt were trivial and unpatentable. WILTRON sued HP for unfair competition
and HP sued WILTRON for patent infringement. We both had pretty good
cases and top attorneys as well. WILTRONs competition had cost
HP dearly in profits from their most profitable division. They lost
business to us and also had to drastically reduce their price. But
Packard thought he had us neutralized with his patent suit.
The final result of our patent standoff with HP was a settlement initiated
by WILTRONs Peter Chalfant and endorsed by HP President John
Young. Packard did not hear about this settlement until it was accomplished.
Then he was quite upset. Packard probably felt some pleasure in replacing
John Young as president shortly thereafter.