Back in August, I wrote about the new defense of prosecution laches in patent law, and specifically about the Symbol Technologies v. Lemelson case, using it as a vehicle to explain some things about patent law. I'm very happy to tell you that Lemelson's patents were just ruled unenforceable by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. The Recorder's Brenda Sandburg has the news on Law.com:
After hundreds of companies paid inventor Jerome Lemelson more than $1.5 billion in licensing fees, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has concluded that his patents aren't enforceable after all.
The Federal Circuit ruled Friday that Lemelson's 18- to 39-year delay in prosecuting patent claims relating to machine vision and bar-code technologies was unreasonable. . . .
"There are no strict time limitations for determining whether continued refiling of patent applications is a legitimate utilization of statutory provisions or an abuse of those provisions," Circuit Judge Alan Lourie wrote for the three-judge panel. "However, refiling an application solely containing previously allowed claims for the business purpose of delaying their issuance can be considered an abuse of the patent system."
This [PDF] is the innovative attorney who came up with the prosecution laches idea, Jesse Jenner, who represented Symbol Technologies, the company that stood against Lemelson when much larger companies had folded, and here is Jenner's reaction:
The Federal Circuit's decision "will hopefully spare hundreds more companies from having to deal with these patents," said Jesse Jenner, a partner in Ropes & Gray's New York office who represented Symbol Technologies, a bar code manufacturer, in the case. "It's unfortunate that so many companies paid for licenses they shouldn't have had to pay for."
Lemelson may appeal.