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Euro banknotes infringe security patent, says lawsuit

The European Central Bank has been sued by a document security company that says every euro banknote in circulation infringes its patent for anti-counterfeiting technology. The company is seeking a "reasonable royalty" as damages.03 Aug 2005

The patent in question, European Patent 455750B1, describes a method of incorporating an anti-counterfeiting feature into banknotes or other security documents to protect against forgeries by digital scanning and copying devices, said the firm.

According to Document Security Systems Inc. (DSSI), the patent was granted in to the late Ralph Wicker in 1999. DSSI acquired it in 2004 from the inventor's estate. Wicker’s son Tom is the company's Chief Technology Officer.

DSSI filed its lawsuit in the European Court of First Instance on Monday, seeking damages for patent infringement from the European Central Bank (ECB) – the central bank for the euro,  seeking royalties.

Twelve countries in Europe changed their currency from individual national currencies to the euro on 1st January 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 30 billion euro banknotes, all of which DSSI believes infringe the patent.
 
 Patrick White, CEO of DSSI, warned, “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 cheques that contain our patented technologies on an unlicensed basis. There are also a number of corporations who may be potential infringers,” he explained. “We plan on addressing each and every instance in order to derive the maximum benefit from our intellectual properties."

According to Tom Wicker, the Wicker Family is pleased at the action taken by DSSI.

“Our father, Ralph Wicker, was the original inventor of these technologies,” said Tom. “He passed away knowing that many governments and corporations were infringing on our patents but our family lacked the resources to enforce these rights.”

“We joined forces with Document Security Systems in part so that we would have the resources and corporate structure to not only address what we consider to be the wrongful use of our technologies but also to provide a platform for marketing and licensing our newer and more powerful anti-counterfeiting technologies in the future,” he added.

The ECB has not commented on the lawsuit.