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Profiting from Patents–anyway-whether ethical or …. August 16, 2004

Posted by mais in Patent.
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“Submarine Patents Sunk:
One of the frequent criticisms I hear of the U.S. patent system in particular is the existence of ‘submarine’ patents. This term refers to patents that issue very long after their filing. So a company or organization that has been happily proceeding along a path of commercialization of their product is blind-sided by a patent issuance, the existance of which was secret.
For several reasons, the number of submarine patents is diminishing: the U.S. now has a patent term of 20 years counted from the date of filing, and for the most part, patent applications are published 18 months after filing. Because these changes only took place in 1995 (patent term) and 2000 (publication), a few submarine patents have been lurking stealthily along, grandfathered in under the old rules.
The most prolific user of the old U.S. patent system has to be Jerome Lemelson. Patent applications he filed in the mid-1950s and that were granted between 1978 and 1994 are now being asserted against manufacturers of bar code readers and machine vision systems. While this strategy has netted Lemelson and the Lemelson Foundation as much as $1 billion in royalty payments, the gold mine is being shut down.
A U.S. District Court recently ruled that 14 patents of Lemelson’s are invalid because ‘Lemelson’s delay in securing the asserted patent claims is unexplained and unreasonable’. While this is good news for the manufacturers, it is not the end of the story as the Lemelson Foundation is expected to appeal the decision. In the opinion of yours truly, Lemelson Foundation is going to be sunk for good on this one. In the last few years, the Federal Circuit Appeals Court has not looked favorably on delays initiated by the patent applicant. ”

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