A Pittsburgh-based company that provides tariff software and related services to the shipping industry agreed to stop selling and supporting one of its products in an out-of-court settlement of a copyright infringement suit.

Under terms of the settlement between Data Exchange Inc., or DXI, and Mariner Systems Inc. of San Francisco, DXI will cease selling and providing support for its "DXI-Tariff Master" software as of Feb. 1.The software enables ship lines and rate-setting conferences to create, edit and distribute electronic images of their price lists, known in the industry as tariffs.

Ship lines and tariff publishing companies are assessing the impact of the settlement, which was announced Jan. 8.

"There are quite a few carriers who are using this system, and are somewhat paranoid at this time," said Keith Pomkowski, executive director, Associated Conferences Secretariat, Hollywood, Fla.

The group consists of several conference agreements through which lines set rates in the Central American, Panamanian and Caribbean trades.

Tariffs are detailed lists of shipping prices plus the rules and mathematical formulas ship lines use to apply the prices to specific shipments. Tariff Master allows a user to take this information and put it in a printed page format that can be sent electronically over telephone lines.

Tariff Master has 53 domestic and three overseas users, a DXI spokeswoman said. No large ship lines work with the product.

Besides providing tariff software and filing services, DXI also is developing the software behind the Federal Maritime Commission's Automated Tariff Filing Information, or ATFI, system. ATFI is a massive and frequently controversial project to automate the filing of maritime tariffs.

DXI has developed software that allows ship lines to file tariffs as data that can be easily used by computer systems, rather than in the more difficult to use page-based formats Tariff Master relies on.

The settlement will have absolutely no impact on DXI's ATFI efforts and data-oriented tariff publishing software, the DXI spokeswoman said.

"The database product is entirely separate from Tariff Master," the spokeswoman said.

For Tariff Master users, "the key issues are whether DXI is going to continue to support and to continue to provide filing for all these accounts they have," said a maritime company executive, who requested he not be quoted by name.

Ship lines fear they will have to completely revamp their tariff publishing arrangements and resort to time-consuming, inconvenient strategies to file their tariffs with the Federal Maritime Commission.

Others are not so sure.

Continued tariff filing is "not a problem," the DXI spokeswoman said. Although the settlement prevents the company from providing technical support services for its software, "the filing should go on uninterrupted," she said.

"If that is the case, it (the settlement) will probably affect users very little," said Joe FitzGibbon, president, Effective Tariff Management Corp., a Bowie, Md.-based tariff publisher.

"At this point in time, with everybody concentrating on the ATFI system, I wouldn't expect there to be any updates to the (Tariff Master) software anyway," Mr. FitzGibbon said.

In fact, if ATFI avoids delays due to legal challenges, paper tariffs may end up obsolete by year's end anyway, maritime executives said.

Mariner Systems filed its suit in San Francisco in the U.S. District Court for Northern California.

According to a statement issued by both companies, the suit against DXI and certain of its principals and employees alleged that Tariff Master infringed Mariner's copyright and trademark in its "Tariff Publisher" software.

Transax Data, a subsidiary of The Journal of Commerce Inc., also is in the tariff software and filing business. Transax executives declined to comment about the agreement.

Executives at both Mariner and DXI said the settlement's terms constrained them from speaking further about its details.

"DXI continues to deny all allegations and admits no liability under the settlement agreement," the companies' joint statement said.

"Under the terms of the settlement, DXI will pay an unspecified amount to Mariner, and has agreed as of Jan. 1, 1992, to cease future marketing, advertising, licensing, selling and distribution" of Tariff Master, according to the statement.

In addition, DXI will cease providing product support for its DXI-Tariff Master product, also effective Feb. 1.

"We'll stop fixing the software or replacing the disk or modifying the software or doing anything to the software," the DXI spokeswoman said. In addition, "we will not do any more Tariff Master installations," she said.

"We don't expect it to have much of an impact at all. The paper page is going away," the spokeswoman said.