Submarine patents run aground

Big news from federal court in Nevada: U.S. District Judge Philip Pro ruled that the estate of deceased inventor Jerome Lemelson “can’t enforce 14 patents relating to machine vision and bar-code technologies because the prolific inventor and his estate waited too long to pursue the alleged infringers. The so-called ‘submarine patents’ are invalid, Pro ruled, and are not infringed by products made by Symbol Technologies Inc. and Cognex Corp.” (Brenda Sandburg, “Judge Torpedoes Dead Inventor’s Patent Claims”, The Recorder, Jan. 27; Cognex press release, Jan. 26). Jesse Jenner, a Fish & Neave attorney who represents Symbol and Cognex, told The Reporter that defendant companies have paid Lemelson interests an estimated $1.5 billion in the face of threatened or actual litigation. “This is probably the most substantial licensing program of any individual patentee in history,” Jenner said. “It’s now essentially terminated.” For more on the fabulous Lemelson patent litigation machine, see May 10, 2001 and links from there; Feb. 11-12, 2002.

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