A federal judge in New Jersey rejected Heartland Payment Systems Inc.'s request for a preliminary injunction to prevent VeriFone Holdings Inc. from soliciting Heartland merchants that use VeriFone point of sale terminals.

Heartland is seeking to stop VeriFone from promoting a Web site where merchants may register for free terminal support directly through VeriFone to begin after Dec. 31, when VeriFone will stop providing Heartland with support. Heartland contends it can continue to support the terminals without VeriFone's help.

In a Dec. 23 opinion, U.S. District Judge Mary K. Cooper denied Heartland's request, noting contradictory claims Heartland had made regarding its ability to provide ongoing service to clients using VeriFone systems, according to VeriFone.

"The ruling means that despite Heartland's considerable efforts, VeriFone can continue to offer direct support to Heartland merchants for VeriFone systems," a VeriFone representative said.

Heartland said it "is considering its options with the circuit court. This opinion is a preliminary ruling, and Heartland intends to pursue damages in its state court action."

The two companies are suing each other over a disagreement stemming from Heartland's development of an advanced encryption terminal.

VeriFone, of San Jose, alleges that Heartland is infringing on one of its patents. Heartland, of Princeton, N.J., claims that VeriFone is engaging in unfair trade practices.

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