Behind the scenes, Wal-Mart and Target use radio-frequency identification tracking systems to help them keep their shelves stocked, but that method could face new complications if an ongoing patent lawsuit doesn't go their way.
The suit, filed back in August 2006, accuses the mega-retailers and Gillette of infringing on a U.S. patent covering an "inventory control system" that employs radio-frequency identification technology to track the presence or absence of items and keep them from colliding. The patent belongs to a Houston man named Ronald Bormaster, who assigned it to Houston-based RFID World, which does not appear to be using the system commercially, just before the suit was filed in 2006, according to court papers.
Many months later, the case is still wending its way through a U.S. court in a Texas district with a reputation for sympathy to patent holders. A preliminary court order issued recently appears to bode well for RFID World, but the final outcome of the case isn't so clear. The targets of the lawsuit have asked for the case to be thrown out, arguing they didn't violate the patent and that the patent isn't valid in the first place.
A legal setback for the retailers could be significant.
Source: Cnet, http://www.news.com
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