The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office took a step that may lead to overturning a $25 million verdict against eBay, issuing an initial finding...

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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office took a step that may lead to overturning a $25 million verdict against eBay, issuing an initial finding that a patent in a case over eBay’s fixed-price sales should be revoked.

Patent owner MercExchange can seek a modification of the patent office’s findings. MercExchange called eBay’s statement that the patent will be invalidated “rank speculation.”

The verdict, which was upheld earlier this month by an appeals court, pertains to technology eBay used in its “Buy it Now” and Half.com features. If the patent office maintains its position, then the court case may be dismissed.

“The patent-office rulings have put a major cloud over MercExchange’s key patents,” Jay Monahan, eBay’s vice president of intellectual property, said in a statement, adding that “eBay has maintained all along that the patents are not valid, and the patent office seems to agree.”

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MercExchange said it will continue to pursue a court ruling that would block some of the functions of eBay’s software.