U.S. Appeals Court Tosses Bar-Code Patent Case
In a case that had threatened huge royalties penalties against major retailersincluding CompUSA, Wal-Mart, Sears, LensCrafter and The Home Depotthe appellate panel ruled that a 51-year-old patent could not be applied to today's bar-code uses.A U.S. Court of Appeals panel this week issued a ruling in a long-running patent infringement lawsuit that threatened retailers using bar-code readers. The panel affirmed a lower court ruling that the patent infringement case should not go forward. The case involves several bar-code system manufacturersincluding Symbol Technologies, Accu-Sort Systems, Intermec Technologies, Metrologic Instruments, PSC, Teklogic, Zebra Technologies, Cognex and Telxonthat were sued by a foundation that owns the patents from an early bar-code inventor named Jerome Lemelson.
The Lemelson Medical, Education and Research Foundation owns about 185 unexpired patentssome dating back to 1954that involve machine vision and bar-code identification. After pursuing bar-code vendors for many years, Lemelson more recently sent letters to major retailers suggesting that they might be targets as well. Among the retailers involved were CompUSA, Wal-Mart, Sears, LensCrafter and The Home Depot.