Jury Rules in Favor of ABBYY, Lexmark, in OCR Patent Trial

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(Some updates since first post)
The long-lasting OCR patent lawsuit filed by Nuance against ABBYY and Lexmark is finally over. Yesterday, a jury appointed by the U.S. District Court of San Francisco, ruled unanimously in favor of ABBYY and its partner Lexmark. It ruled that neither company owes Nuance anything in damages related to patent or trade dress infringement. 

The way I understand it, Lexmark, which manufactures printers and MFPs, was a partner of Nuance, but at some point, prior to 2008, when Nuance filed the suit (I guess the suit was originally filed in Wisconsin in 2002, but moved to California in 2008), Lexmark switched out its bundled Nuance OCR technology in favor of ABBYY’s. Nuance accused both Lexmark and ABBYY of attempting to create packaging that resembled Nuance, and also accused ABBYY of violating five six patents that Nuance picked up in its 2000 acquisition of Caere. ABBYY promptly filed a countersuit, accusing Nuance of violating two of its patents, as well as violating anti-trust act. The whole thing was combined in one trial in the Court of Judge Jeffrey S. White.

In 2009, eCopy and it’s OCR partner I.R.I.S. were dragged into the suit, but that was apparently resolved when Nuance acquired eCopy later that year and replaced the I.R.I.S. technology with its own.

Apparently before the case went before a jury, in a trial that started earlier this month, it was narrowed down to three patents.

I’ve read Nuance’s OCR patents and they are pretty broad based – meaning that if ABBYY were found in violation of them, it could have affected everyone else developing (and licensing non-Nuance) OCR technology. So, this decision should have many people in the document imaging market breathing a collective sigh of relief. 

No word yet if Nuance plans to appeal, if they can, and/or if they will go after anyone else for patent infringement related to OCR . We expect to talk with ABBYY reps later today and I know Nuance is planning on issuing a statement. We’ll keep you posted as more news on this develops.

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