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Business Briefing

December 30, 2009

Nokia steps up its fight with Apple

Nokia Corp. is broadening a legal dispute with Apple Inc. over the iPhone. It filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission alleging that Apple's iPods and computers also violate Nokia's intellectual property rights.

The company had sued Apple in U.S. District Court in Wilmington, Del., over the iPhone, claiming it infringes 10 of its patents.

Apple denied the allegations and this month countered with its own lawsuit saying Nokia had copied aspects of the iPhone in its devices.

Guilty plea in hacking case

A computer hacker who helped orchestrate one of the largest credit card thefts in U.S. history pleaded guilty to conspiracy and wire fraud in the last of three cases brought by federal prosecutors.

Prosecutors said Albert Gonzalez of Miami invaded the computer systems of several major retailers and stole tens of millions of credit and debit card numbers.

Gonzalez pleaded guilty in Boston in a case involving unauthorized access to computers of Maine-based Hannaford supermarkets and other retailers. He pleaded guilty in September to charges from two other similar cases.

Outback settles sex bias suit

Outback Steakhouse has agreed to pay $19 million to female workers and take other steps to settle a sex discrimination lawsuit.

A consent decree describing the settlement between the Tampa-based restaurant chain and the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission was filed in U.S. District Court in Denver.

The EEOC claimed female workers were denied favorable jobs that prevented them from advancing to profit-sharing management positions. Outback parent OSI Restaurant Partners said settling the suit was better than spending time and money on litigation.

CAPITOL HILL

Fed's Bernanke met with senators

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke had conversations with 18 of the 23 members of the Senate Banking Committee before their 16-7 vote this month to recommend that the full Senate confirm him to a second four-year term.

One veteran Fed watcher said the contact was unusual. "I have never seen a Fed chairman put a full court press on Congress," said Ken Thomas, a lecturer in finance at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School.

INSURANCE

Natural disaster losses plunge

Insurers' losses from natural disasters fell by more than half in 2009, thanks to fewer hurricanes and earthquakes, although climate change contributed to a significant increase in damages and losses in the U.S., a leading re-insurer said.

Munich Re said in its annual review that insured losses came in at $22 billion this year, down from $50 billion in 2008. It said total economic losses, including losses not covered by insurance, fell 75% to $50 billion from last year's $200 billion.

GLOBAL TRADE

Tariffs on tap for Chinese steel

The Commerce Department said it would impose anti-dumping duties of as much as 145% on Chinese steel-grating imports under a preliminary finding that the products were sold at prices below fair value.

Imports of the steel grating were valued at $90.7 million in 2008, the department said. Chinese shipments of grating to the U.S. jumped more than 500% by volume and more than 900% by value from 2006 to 2008, the agency said.

-- times wire reports

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