There has been more action in the long-standing feud between inventor Jerome Lemelson and several machinery makers he has accused of patent infringement. According to Lemelson's lawyer, Rolf Stadheim, Van Dorn Plastic Machinery Co. of Strongsville, Ohio, requested that a patent examiner re-evaluate four of Lemelson's patents. The examiner recently verified that 15 claims Lemelson made involving two patents were valid, but canceled all Lemelson's claims connected with two other patents.
The examiner verified claims involving patent Nos. 3616495 and 3820928, which expired in 1988. He canceled patent No. 4120922, which would have expired in 1995, and No. 4318874, which would have expired in 1999.
Separately, the Patent Office on Nov. 23 approved a fifth patent for Lemelson on technology related to injection molding equipment.
Since 1990, Lemelson has contacted injection molding machinery manufacturers, threatening them with lawsuits if they did not license technologies for which he held patents.
In August 1991 Lemelson filed suit against Van Dorn, Nissei America Inc. of Anaheim, Calif., and the Negri-Bossi unit of John Brown Inc., claiming they wrongfully infringed on his patents. Negri-Bossi of Milan, Italy, later was dropped from the suit after it reached a licensing arrangement.
Stadheim said he expects Lemelson to appeal the cancellation of the two patents. He also expects the lawsuit, filed in federal court in Reno, Nev., to proceed after the appeal.
In the meantime, Stadheim said, an error at the Patent Office complicated the case.
The Patent Office, he said, was late in notifying Lemelson about the cancellation, so appeals have not been filed. Stadheim said he was notified about the cancellation in mid-December. He said he does not know when the appeal may be filed.
Van Dorn declined to comment on its legal affair with Lemelson, but issued a statement Dec. 16 saying it is satisfied with the Patent Office's action.
Stadheim said he does not expect the Patent Office's action to affect licensing arrangements Lemelson made with 24 equipment makers, because those arrangements typically include a clause to license technologies from new patents, older patents or parts of patents Lemelson holds.