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US firm claims 30bn Euro banknotes infringe its patent

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A US-based document security firm yesterday claimed that every Euro banknote in circulation infringes on a patent it owns covering anti-counterfeiting technology. In pursuance of its claim Document Security Systems lodged a lawsuit to recover damages “at the rate of a reasonable royalty” from the European Central Bank of Frankfurt, Germany.

In its complaint lodged in the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg, the company alleges that all Euro banknotes in circulation infringe its European Patent 455750B1, which covers a method of incorporating an anti-counterfeiting feature into banknotes or similar security documents to protect against forgeries by digital scanning and copying devices.

According to the company, this patent was granted and confirmed valid in 1999 by the Technical Board of Appeals of the European Patent Office. The patent was acquired in 2004 by Document Security Systems, Inc. (DSSI), from the estate of the inventor, the late Ralph Wicker, whose son Tom is now chief technology officer of DSSI.

The twelve countries in Europe changed their currency from individual national currencies to the Euro on January 1 2002, and seven denominations of new bank notes were designed and printed. By the end of 2006, which is the earliest that this case might come to trial, the ECB is expected to have printed or caused to be printed about 30bn Euro banknotes, all of which DSSI believes infringe the patent.

Patrick White, CEO of DSSI, claimed: “The Euro is not the only currency utilising our technologies without authorisation. We believe there are a significant number of other currencies and also traveller’s checks that contain our patented technologies on an unlicensed basis. There are also a number of corporations who may be potential infringers. We plan on addressing each and every instance."

The European Court of First Instance is the court in Europe that deals with claims against European Community Institutions such as the European Central Bank. There is one level of appeal, to the European Court of Justice.

By Robert Jaques

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