Chief Judge John Coughenour of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington has ruled that Earth Resource Mapping (ERM) does not infringe several claims of LizardTech, Inc.’s ‘835 image compression patent and that the remaining claims are invalid. This ruling clears ERM of patent infringement allegations dating back to 1999.
In October 1999 LizardTech sued ERM, asserting infringement of the ‘835 patent and other non-patent claims. ERM, who has its own image patents, has always maintained that the case had more to do with anti-competitive tactics than with enforcement of valid intellectual property rights.
After consuming a reported US$50 million in venture capital funding, LizardTech was recently sold to a small Japanese public company called Celartem for $11.25 million. Celartem expects to lose 1,100,000,000 Yen (US$10 million) this fiscal year.
Mr. Nixon said “We deeply appreciate Judge Coughenour taking the time and effort to analyze the case in depth, providing a clear and detailed ruling granting our motions for summary judgment. This case has been going on for nearly 5 years. We hope this ruling will end this senseless litigation so we can all concentrate on what is important – our clients.”
The case has a long (and expensive) history. In a recent interview Mr. Nixon provided a comprehensive account of the dispute between LizardTech and ERM including an earlier summary judgment in favor of ERM, a subsequent reversal on appeal and disposition-again on summary judgment-of a separate lawsuit filed by LizardTech against Mr. Nixon personally. (see .
Briefly, in 2003 the Court presiding over LizardTech’s action against ERM appointed a “Special Master” to the court. A Special Master is someone who acts on behalf of the Court, providing expert technical and legal knowledge. The Court chose a Special Master who had been recommended by LizardTech and agreed to by ERM. In late 2003, the Special Master completed several hundred pages of reports. With the contested claim terms defined by the Special Master and Court, ERM filed several motions for summary judgment. ERM argued that it did not infringe LizardTech’s patent and that part of the LizardTech patent was invalid. The recent ruling granted all motions in favor of ERM. (see https://www.ermapper.com/jpeg2000/standards/lt_14032004.pdf for the full ruling).
Mr. Nixon said, “No one denies anyone the right to defend their own intellectual property. But enough is enough. It’s time to accept the umpire’s decision. We hope that LizardTech will at last see commonsense on this.” However, Mr. Nixon remained cautious about whether LizardTech will appeal, noting that “LizardTech has claimed that their patent has implications for JPEG 2000. If LizardTech does appeal, I would think it a pretty clear indication that LizardTech wants to extend their patent claims to cover JPEG 2000. This is why the invalidity ruling was so important in this case. We hope that this latest LizardTech vs. ERM court ruling will provide additional security to the ISO JPEG 2000 standard.”