AIM GLOBAL (Warrendale, Pa.), the automatic identification trade association, reports that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit declared all of the claimed Lemelson bar code and machine vision patents unenforceable due to an unnecessary delay in filing. The decision was published on November 16, 2005, and is available online. In January 2002 the Federal Circuit found that unreasonable delay (in prosecuting patent rights) was a valid argument against patent infringement and sent the case back to the district court.
The ruling may finally signify the end of a six-year legal battle between the Lemelson Foundation (current owners of the patents) and nine AIDC companies. The AIDC companies involved in the litigation were: Symbol Technologies, Accu-Sort Systems, Metrologic Instruments, PSC, Teklogix, Zebra Technologies, Cognex, Telxon, and Intermec Technologies.
The November 16 decision expanded on a September 9 panel ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals that affirmed an earlier lower court decision that the claims of 14 machine vision patents asserted by the Lemelson Partnership (some of which were also claimed to apply to bar code reading) are unenforceable for reasons of prosecution laches. Jerome H. Lemelson was an inventor with more than 500 patents to his credit. Most of these patents are not affected by the ruling.
The November 2005 opinion can be found at: http://www.fedcir.gov/opinions/04-1451o.pdf.