Blockbuster won a dismissal of a lawsuit accusing it of trying to drive independent retailers out of business by negotiating exclusive contracts with movie studios. More than 200 video retailers sued Blockbuster and Vivendi Universal's Universal Home Video, Sony's Columbia TriStar, Walt Disney's Buena Vista Home Entertainment and News Corp.'s 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment. The ruling by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Victoria Chaney ends the litigation against the companies.

Lucent Says Dell Infringed on Patents

Lucent Technologies accused Dell Computer of infringing on six U.S. patents in a lawsuit filed in federal court in Delaware. Lucent claims that Dell is wrongfully using inventions owned by Lucent for color memory, video-search functions and controlling a computer with a stylus, all patented since 1984, and is seeking unspecified damages.

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Enron got permission from a federal judge to extend the period for negotiating a recovery plan without the threat of rival proposals. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez approved a three-month extension to April 30, the third granted Enron since it filed for Chapter 11 protection in December 2001. The company's "exclusivity period" ended Jan. 31.

Sports Authority and Gart Sports have agreed to merge to create a sports retailer with 385 stores in 45 states and annual sales of about $2.5 billion. The stock-swap deal values each of the retailers at about $187 million. The boards of directors of both companies unanimously approved the merger agreement and hope to complete the deal in the third quarter. The combined company would be named the Sports Authority and be headquartered in Englewood, Colo.

Palm received a partial reprieve in a patent-infringement case when a judge ruled it has a right to challenge a patent owned by Xerox for handwriting-recognition software. While the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington upheld a ruling that Palm infringed on Xerox's patent, it gave Palm an additional chance to show that the patent is invalid. In December 2001, a federal court in Rochester, N.Y., ruled that Palm's handheld organizers, which use handwriting technology marketed as "Graffiti," infringe on patents held by Xerox. Palm has been able to continue selling devices with the software until the dispute is resolved.

Union leaders at United Airlines have talked with former United chief executive Gerald M. Greenwald and other potential investors about proposing an alternative to current CEO Glenn F. Tilton's reorganization plan, Business Week magazine reported. A spokesman for the International Association of Machinists said he was "not aware of any such effort." United wouldn't comment. United is seeking to slash costs by $2.56 billion to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Unions, unhappy that more than half of those savings would come from cuts in labor costs, have also objected to a proposal by Tilton to transfer as much as 30 percent of United's flight capacity to a new low-cost airline unit.

Mark H. Swartz, the former chief financial officer of Tyco International, pleaded not guilty to tax evasion. He is charged with failing to pay nearly $5 million in taxes on a $12.5 million bonus he received in 1999.

Gillette is funding research that it hopes will produce a laser or otherwise light-based hair-removal device cheap and easy enough for home use. Gillette could pay Palomar Medical Technologies as much as $7 million to test whether the device is feasible. Palomar makes laser-based hair-removal systems used in doctors' offices, clinics, spas and salons.

INTERNATIONAL

Brazilian cabinet chief Jose Dirceu de Oliveira e Silva lashed out at the central bank for raising interest rates for a fifth time since October, saying the higher borrowing costs are strangling the economy. The central bank raised the benchmark overnight rate by 1 percentage point, to 26.5 percent, the highest level since May 1999, and increased the amount of deposits banks must keep on reserve. The steps will make it even more difficult for companies and individuals to borrow in Brazil, analysts said.

LOCAL BUSINESS

US Airways missed $19.7 million of payments due on public debt instruments related to five Airbus A330 planes. The airline said in a statement it's in talks with "certain interested parties" and predicts it will reach an agreement within the allowed 10-day cure period. The airline is also in discussions with the provider of its debtor-in-possession financing, the Retirement Systems of Alabama, on conditions required to draw the final $200 million of available financing.

EARNINGS

Halliburton, the oil-field services company formerly led by Vice President Cheney, reported its biggest quarterly loss since at least 1990 on costs for settling asbestos claims against its construction and engineering units. The fourth-quarter net loss was $602 million, compared with a profit of $139 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 5.5 percent, to $3.35 billion. Halliburton recorded $664 million in after-tax costs after agreeing in December to pay up to $4 billion in cash, stock and notes to settle damage claims related to asbestos, a carcinogenic insulation and fireproofing material used through the 1970s.

J.C. Penney said fourth-quarter profit more than doubled over the year-earlier period, to $202 million, after the company reduced costs and sold more jewelry and children's clothing at full price. Sales for the quarter rose less than 1 percent, to $9.55 billion.

Matsushita Electric Industrial posted a fiscal third-quarter profit of $176 million, compared with a loss of $1.45 billion a year earlier. The maker of the Panasonic brand products attributed the rebound to strong sales of DVD recorders and plasma-display TV sets. Sales in the October-December period rose 8 percent, to $15.7 billion.

Nordstrom said fourth-quarter earnings rose 18 percent because it sold more designer women's clothing, cosmetics and shoes. Net income increased to $60 million, from $50.7 million in the year-earlier period. Sales in the three months ended Jan. 31 rose 7.3 percent, to $1.75 billion.

RadioShack said fourth-quarter earnings more than tripled from a year ago, to $109.1 million, after the company reduced costs. Sales slumped 1.2 percent, to $1.5 billion, the sixth consecutive quarterly decline, as holiday shoppers bought fewer computers and satellite TV systems.

Target, helped by increased earnings from its credit card division, reported a 4 percent profit increase for its fourth quarter, which ended Feb. 1. Target posted earnings of $688 million, compared with $658 million in its fourth quarter a year earlier. Revenue increased 6 percent, to $14.06 billion.

Williams Cos., the second-largest U.S. owner of natural gas pipelines, narrowed its fourth-quarter loss to $201 million, from $1.24 billion in the same period of 2001. Fourth-quarter revenue rose 8 percent, to $1.7 billion. The company said it will sell $2.5 billion in assets this year to trim debt, including an oil refinery in Alaska, the 6,000-mile Texas Gas pipeline and a 55 percent stake in Williams Energy Partners. Shedding businesses will help reduce its workforce by an additional 4,000; the company cut 2,600 jobs last year.

Compiled from reports by the Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Dow Jones News Service and Washington Post staff writers

DaimlerChrysler Chairman Juergen Schrempp, right, talks with his financial director, Manfred Gentz, at a news conference in Stuttgart. The Chrysler division had fourth-quarter operating earnings of $81 million, compared with a loss of about $386 million a year earlier. Chrysler workers will get their first profit-sharing checks since 2000.