Comparative Patent Quality

50 Ariz. St. L.J. 71 (2018). Colleen Chien.

On June 8, 1999, the Patent Office (“USPTO”), like it does every Tuesday, published the names and numbers of newly issued patents. Among them was the 6,032,137 (“the ‘137 patent”), a patent that described a way of depositing a check by imaging and sending it, rather than physically transferring it to the bank. The inventor, Claudio Ballard, tried for several years to develop the invention. He failed, but the technology thrived. After unsuccessful talks with JP Morgan Chase, Ballard’s company, DataTreasury, sued a dozen or so banks and companies for patent infringement. In 2003, Congress passed the “Check 21” Act, clearing the way for check imaging to become standard. In February 2006, DataTreasury used the ‘137 patent and related patents to sue thirty banks. In 2010, after DataTreasury won its first lawsuit, based on the finding that JP Morgan had knowingly infringed Ballard’s patents, Ballard was named inventor of the year.

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