PATENTS & LICENSES — Covering Their Assets

Recent Litigation

On another front, ImageX recently announced it had filed suit against iPrint Technologies, of Santa Clara, CA, for infringement of its automated prepress patent, #6,429,947. iPrint, a provider of online and off-line marketing and customized branding solutions, responded with a statement denying the allegations. The company also pointed out that it has a number of pending patent applications of its own.

Those tempted to dismiss any patents out of hand would do well to bear in mind the recent industry history with another patent. In 1994, Richard Stein, of National Printing & Packaging in Denver, was issued patent #5,283,154 for a “random screen waterless printing process.” Controversy arose when he started requesting licensing and royalties fees from companies using stochastic/frequency modulated screening in combination with waterless printing. The patent was awarded even though Stein hadn’t developed a methodology for producing the screening nor any plates or inks used in the waterless process.

The concept of patent awarding and infringement sounds like a straightforward proposition, but the very act of trying to be unambiguous itself leads to confusion. It results in such complex descriptions written in legalese and with so many qualifying statements that they become all but undecipherable. The exercise is like trying to nail Jell-O to the wall. The harder you work to pin it down, the more that oozes out around the edges.

Try Nailing This Down

Take the example of the aforementioned ImageX patent on automated prepress. In part, its abstract reads: “An online, automated printing system quickly produces consistent printed materials. The system includes front-end customer setup and product setup modules available on a Web server. A print-ready file is produced embodying the product to be printed. The print-ready file is compiled and all operations on the file can be completed via reference to the information contained therein. A state flag is associated with each element of the file; the flag having states such as preview, print, both or none. The file is stored on an asset management file server…”

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