JANUARY 26--Chief Judge Philip Pro of the US District Court in Las Vegas has ruled in favor of Cognex Corporation (Natick, MA) in its lawsuit against the Lemelson Medical, Education & Research Foundation, Limited Partnership. The judge ruled that claims of 14 patents asserted by the Lemelson Partnership are invalid and unenforceable and not infringed by Cognex.
Cognex filed suit against the Lemelson Partnership in September 1998, seeking a declaration that certain patents issued to Lemelson that purportedly cover machine vision are invalid, unenforceable, and not infringed by either Cognex or users of Cognex products. In 2000, the Court combined Cognex's lawsuit with a similar suit against the Lemelson Partnership (filed at a later date) by Symbol Technologies and seven other manufacturers of barcode readers. The case was tried in the US District Court in Las Vegas from November 18, 2002, to January 17, 2003. Posttrial briefs were submitted to the Court on June 26, 2003.
In summarizing his 30-page decision, Judge Pro wrote, "Having concluded that Lemelson's patent claims are unenforceable under the equitable doctrine of prosecution laches; that the asserted patent claims as construed by the Court are not infringed by Cognex because use of the accused products does not satisfy one or more of the limitations of each and every asserted claim; and that the claims are invalid for lack of written description and enablement even if construed in the manner urged by Lemelson, the Court finds that judgment should be entered in favor of Plaintiffs." The complete text of Judge Pro's decision can be found on Cognex's web site: www.cognex.com.
Since the early 1990s, the late Jerome Lemelson and the Lemelson Partnership, which never built or sold a single vision system or barcode reader, have collected in excess of $1.5 billion in license fees by asserting their patent portfolio and the threat of complex and costly patent litigation against hundreds of companies around the world that use machine vision or barcode readers. As a result of Friday's ruling, every company will now be able to use machine-vision systems and barcode readers, anywhere in their operations, without the threat of litigation from the Lemelson Partnership and without having to pay licensing fees to them.
"This ruling is truly a cause for celebration...for Cognex and for every company around the world that makes, sells, or uses machine-vision systems or barcode readers," said Robert J. Shillman, chairman and CEO of Cognex. "It is also a victory for consumers everywhere, because every one of us has paid a hidden tax to Lemelson each and every time that we made a purchase of virtually any item that was manufactured since the start of Lemelson's licensing onslaught."