Inventors and businesses in New Jersey and around the country obtain patents to protect their inventions, processes and designs, and they may pursue legal remedies when others use their original ideas without permission. These cases are usually complex, and patent infringement lawsuits sometimes drag on for years. A recent patent dispute case that included the Alabama-based company Return Mail and the US Postal Service was decided by the US Supreme Court. With a majority vote of 6-3, the justices ruled that the agency had infringed on intellectual property rights protected by a patent.
Return Mail developed a system that used scanning equipment, barcodes and computer databases to automate the process for sorting returned mail. The company then applied for and received a patent for the system. The company offered to sell the system to the USPS, but the agency decided to develop their own solution to handle returned mail. The legal dispute began when the Postal Service attempted to have Return Mail’s patent invalidated.
Return Mail responded to this move by initiating intellectual property litigation. The company argued that the Postal Service was using their invention without permission and should make restitution. The Postal Service answered by challenging Return Mail’s patent under the provisions of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act of 2011. To do this, the agency claimed that it was a person. This argument failed to convince the Supreme Court.
This case reveals that patent lawsuits can be protracted and costly even when the facts seem clear. Attorneys with experience in this area may advise their clients to take a proactive approach to intellectual property protection and act quickly and decisively at the first sign of infringement. Lawyers could assist in these efforts by assessing the skills and experience of companies offering patent feature and product mapping services.
Source: AP, “Supreme Court sides with Alabama company in patent dispute,” Jessica Gresko, June 10, 2019