Court Throws Out Bar-Code Scan Patents

From Bloomberg News

A U.S. appeals court said the estate of late inventor Jerome Lemelson could no longer enforce bar-code scanning patents that had cost Ford Motor Co., IBM Corp. and other U.S. companies more than $1.3 billion in licensing fees.

Lemelson, who died in 1997, spent decades obtaining patents on devices that scan products for price codes, defects and other information. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said Friday that the applications took too long, upholding a judge’s decision that the patents were unenforceable.

“I would like to think that this is the end of it,” said Jesse Jenner, a lawyer with Fish & Neave IP Group of Ropes & Gray in New York who has fought the patents since 1992. Jenner represented Cognex Corp., a maker of machine inspectors, and Symbol Technologies Inc. and other makers of bar-code scanners in the appeal.

Lemelson’s for-profit foundation has sued more than 800 businesses and has lawsuits pending against more than 100, including Intel Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Companies that paid licensing fees include automakers such as Ford, IBM, Apple Computer Inc. and mobile-phone maker Motorola Inc.


“It’s a victory for the patent system,” said Chuck Mulloy, a spokesman for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel.