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Legal Machine Helped Inventor Gain Wealth

 
 
yitwail
 
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 11:14 am
came across a fascinating story on AP. it belongs more properly in the Legal or Business & Technology forums, so i'm posting it here since i don't want to post it in 2 places. i'm not sure why it was written over a year after the events it describes. i'm only providing opening paragraphs plus a link to the rest; hope that's not a copyright violation. if any lawyers out there are familiar with the case in question, i'd enjoy reading your commentary.

By ADAM GOLDMAN, Associated Press Writer
Sun Aug 21, 8:22 PM ET

Robert Shillman knew that Ford Motor Co. would never let some skinny, lone inventor rape it for millions. Ford was tough, tougher than Jerome Lemelson.

Shillman was founder, chairman and chief executive of Cognex Corp., a leader in machine vision technology, and he had watched as one company after another had crumbled before Lemelson's lawyers. Lemelson would claim that he had invented machine vision and held the patents; when he threatened to sue, companies would pay him off.

When Ford decided to topple Lemelson and prove he didn't invent the technology car makers had used for decades to build vehicles, Shillman exulted.

But then, Ford buckled. A U.S. District Court judge ruled against the company. And once a higher court declined to hear its appeal, Ford joined Chrysler and GM in deciding to settle and pay royalties to Lemelson.

"You have to do what's right from a business standpoint," Roger May, Ford's lawyer, said. "You can't just spend money because it's the cause celebre."

Shillman disagreed.

"Ford caved," he said. "Let's call it what it is. They gave in to extortion."

Of the 979 companies that Lemelson lawyer Gerald Hosier would wangle into paying royalties, 800 came after the Ford case concluded.

Link to rest of article
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 02:30 pm
Yit, I read that story. Didn't the man invent the bar graph, and recently die? It seems that he also abused his patents, if I recall correctly.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 02:55 pm
Letty wrote:
Yit, I read that story. Didn't the man invent the bar graph, and recently die? It seems that he also abused his patents, if I recall correctly.


didn't know about his parents. i think what he invented, or at least claimed to invent, was bar codes. i could just picture this meeting between the lawyer with his Aspen residence and a billion dollars in royalties pending from 400 companies he was suing, exchanging epithets with the MIT upstart whose company had a mere $122 million in revenue--a modern day Goliath and David. Laughing
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Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 03:03 pm
Abused his PARENTS? I love it! but just in case you misread, Yit. That was PATENTS. Razz

You're right, though. It is nice to see the big boys not fight the suits, because it would be more expensive in the long run.
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yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 03:18 pm
OOPS, a major misread. i'm sure Mr. Lemelson was a very dutiful son. Embarrassed

as i understand it, the big boys, including Wal-Mart, Target, RadioShack, Hershey Foods, FedEx, Broadcom, and Apple, wanted the makers of bar code scanners to indemnify them from damages, but the little guys couldn't afford that and decided instead to sue to have the patents declared invalid.
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 03:29 pm
Yit, my father in law was an inventor, and not only did he come up with new ideas all the time, he designed them in his mind and built them himself. Amazing people these innovators.

I'm going to have to try and locate that news story again. The article that I read implied that Lemelson manipulated the U.S. Patent Office, but I can't be certain.

Hey, Mr. Turtle. This is a featured thread.
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 03:38 pm
the manipulation, which is apparently no longer legal, is called "submarining". the patent is filed with no intent to build anything, periodically continued--with modifications to keep it current--so it doesn't expire, and only enforced when someone develops a working and profitable product. the bar code patent, for instance, was first filed in the late 50's! reminiscent of drug companies getting patents renewed, but at least drug companies have to develop a drug first.

i'm not sure what makes a thread featured, but it's better than a locked thread at any rate. :wink:
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 04:43 pm
Ok, Yit, thanks. As for having your thread featured, it means that you are clever, have fantastic writing skills, are a paragon of virtue and get responses from the right kind of people. Laughing
0 Replies
 
yitwail
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 04:52 pm
i'm skeptical about cleverness, skill, or virtue, but i agree with the characterization of the people who responded. ;-)
0 Replies
 
Letty
 
  1  
Reply Mon 22 Aug, 2005 05:01 pm
Ah, you be good, Yit. whatever kind of turtle you are.<smile>
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