EFF challenges NeoMedia’s patent claim on barcode / mobile picture / price comparison

I had an anonymous tip in this afternoon pointing my attention to this post on the Electronic Fronteir Foundation’s site.

Link: EFF: DeepLinks

A company called NeoMedia has a patent on reading an “index” (e.g, a bar code) off a product, matching it with information in a database, and then connecting to a remote computer (e.g., a website). In other words, NeoMedia claims to have invented the basic concept of any technology that could, say, scan a product on a supermarket shelf and then connect you to a price-comparison website. To bust this overly broad patent, we need to find prior art that describes a product made before 1995 that might be something like a UPC scanner, but which also connects the user to a remote computer or database. Take a look at the description and please forward it to anyone you know who might have special knowledge in this area. You can submit your tips here.

What do you think? Would you ever take a ‘picture’ of a barcode with your phone to try and compare it’s price? I think that whole process is just far too much of an arse myself.

By Ewan

Ewan is Founder and Editor of Mobile Industry Review. He writes about a wide variety of industry issues and is usually active on Twitter most days. You can read more about him or reach him with these details.

17 replies on “EFF challenges NeoMedia’s patent claim on barcode / mobile picture / price comparison”

Tens of millions of people in Japan use the underlying functionality every day.

The barcode to price comparison is an overly complex example. How about: point camera at QRcode (printed on say on an advertisement for a restaurant) . With one click, as opposed laborious keyboard entry of some less-than-intuitive text string, mobile handset browser displays mobile-formatted hompage of restaurant with information about menu, prices, business hours, link to map(s), and discount coupon. This information is now in the handset’s memory, something from which both the advertiser and advertised-to would appear to benefit.

Ah I really don’t like the functionality 😐 I think it’s just me. I’d much rather do a ‘’ and dial **FORD or something like that — to get the mobile link, rather than mess around taking photos.

Actually Ewan, if it’s done right, it’s a very smooth process. In Japan, you don’t even have to take a picture, you just hover your phone over the QR code or FP code (the picture version which is a *very* cool idea) and your phone automatically knows that it’s seeing a QR code and reacts accordingly. So even simpler than shozu for example. But then the QR reader is pre-installed on phones in Japan so it’s dead easy. Jan from W2forum has written about a lovely example of using FP codes in a Japanese temple here:

I don’t know how the qode system from NeoM compares – I haven’t used it yet. But I imagine it involves a download first which is always going to be somewhat of a barrier until this stuff is pre-installed.

However, going back to the main point of the post.. I’m interested to know if there is prior art to NeoM’s patent application. We’ve been using barcodes and readers for as long as I can remember (and I spent almost 10 years in retail from 1986 and we were using scanners, barcodes and Epos systems even then). But then I’m not a patent expert and defer to those who know more about these things.

As a lawyer, the EFF has absolutely no case against NeoMedia.

There are patents in existence that do describe scanning and reading UPC labels. However, they are in reference to closed systems or simply in reference to hand held barcode scanning equipment.

That seems to be the case here. These previous patents do not seem to reference using UPC codes in an open system, ala NeoMedia’s patent, to connect directly to the Internet. That is the key difference between NeoMedia’s patent and the prior art provided by the EFF.

In the AirClic vs NeoMedia case, it was deemed that AirClic was connecting barcodes internally in a closed system and was not violating NeoMedia’s patents, which cover the process in an open ‘direct connect to the Internet’ system. Hence, the court already decided and acknowledged that there are two different kinds of patented processes here. Open vs Closed systems.

AirClic did not receive a license to use NeoMedia’s patented technology, and the two companies agreed that AirClic’s current business model – mobile enterprise solutions – is not in NeoMedia’s space because AirClic used a closed system.

The fact of the matter is, the EFF has ulterior motives. I have never seen a respectable lawyer use the word “bogus” in a press release. That type of language is libelous. The EFF’s whole agenda is inflammatory and attempts to distort their true motives.

Truth be told, they have intentionally left out Virgin Entertainment consistently since 2004 – because it is clear a multi-billion dollar company (that ended up settling and licensing with NeoMedia) doesn’t fit the story they are fabricating about NeoMedia going after only small companies.

The prior patents submitted by the EFF have no true commonality with NeoMedia’s patents.


On a related note – I’ve finally found a decent use for my N95 Barcode Reader via a rather nifty Firefox plugin…

Tis tres cool.

Go to any website – hit the barcode button in your firefox browser – read it with N95 and voila – said website opens in your phone’s browser…

The reexamination of NeoMedia’s patent doesn’t concern me at all, as it is merely a formality.

As you know, NeoMedia has very coveted patents. These patents were first licensed by Digital Convergence in 2000 to facilitate the launch of the :CueCat. They were also the catalyst in the licensing of our patents to Cross Pen, Symbol, and NeoMedia’s acquisition of the qode assets in 2001.

Years later, NeoMedia successfully won legal battles against Virgin Entertainment — who licensed our intellectual property portfolio — and successfully defeated AirClic and LScan. NeoMedia’s patents have proven their value and worth in true time tested fashion.

One would certainly think that patent #6,199,048 has been under the microscope over the years, and has been looked over with a fine-toothed comb. Especially for prior art in the preceding patent infringement cases with Virgin, AirClic, and LScan.

Too many Patent Experts and legal representatives have looked at the core patents (mainly the Huedtz patents) and have not figured out a way around them; Motorola, Symbol, Qualcomm, Digital Convergence’s legal team, Cross Pen, etc.


I know it has been a long time. I skimmed the patents. NeoMedia does have a legitimate patent. Thus, the EFF group is simply trying to kill the patent. I wonder what they feel about other patents – such as the telephone. It would be a terror to our society to take away the patents that individuals and companies create as part of an on going business. Investments are made based on patents. This type of attempt to patent busting is unbelieveble.

I know it has been a long time. I skimmed the patents. NeoMedia does have a legitimate patent. Thus, the EFF group is simply trying to kill the patent. I wonder what they feel about other patents – such as the telephone. It would be a terror to our society to take away the patents that individuals and companies create as part of an on going business. Investments are made based on patents. This type of attempt to patent busting is unbelieveble.

NeoMedia’s Barcode Lookup Patent Approved

Mobile Advertising Industry Looks Forward to Next Growth Phase

ATLANTA–(BUSINESS WIRE)–NeoMedia Technologies, Inc. (OTC BB: NEOM), the global leader in camera-initiated transactions for mobile devices, announced today that the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) has ruled in favor of NeoMedia in the reexamination of its U.S. Patent No. 6,199,048, System And Method For Automatic Access Of A Remote Computer Over A Network. All ninety-five claims of this Barcode Lookup Patent have been confirmed as being patentable by the PTO.

The PTO’s re-validation of this patent provides tremendous opportunities for companies in the mobile advertising space, allowing them to unify and quickly move forward to implement new applications and services.

“This is excellent news for NeoMedia as it allows us to move forward with our vision to create strong partnerships and synergies to align all companies for the next growth phase,” said Iain McCready, chief executive officer of NeoMedia Technologies, Inc. “We are committed to building a fully involved and collaborative ecosystem of agencies, mobile operators, and vendors who recognize the potential of mobile barcode advertising.”

“We are pleased that this patent has withstood the intense scrutiny of the PTO’s re-examination process, in which numerous additional prior art references were considered in detail by the PTO Examiners before confirming all ninety-five claims as being patentable”, said Tony Barkume of Barkume & Associates, P.C., patent counsel for NeoMedia. “The approval indicated by the PTO in its Notice of Intent to Issue a Re-examination Certificate has confirmed the strength and validity of the ‘048 patent in the face of such a heightened challenge.”

In keeping with its vision and commitment to developing an interoperable global ecosystem, NeoMedia is licensing its technology to foster innovation in the creation of exciting new mobile barcode applications and services for the advertising industry.

NeoMedia embraces the development of open standards for 1D and 2D barcode technologies, and provides a global infrastructure to resolve these barcodes across multiple carriers. The company’s ecosystem ensures that all parties involved in the transaction are accurately compensated by pre-defined business rules. Through NeoMedia’s complete solution, media & advertising companies, consumers, businesses, mobile operators and OEMs can harness wireless networks to perform commerce more easily and securely, and ensure monetization can occur reliably and accurately.

About NeoMedia Technologies

NeoMedia Technologies, Inc. (OTCBB: NEOM) is the global leader in mobile barcode scanning solutions. Our technology allows mobile devices with cameras to read 1D and 2D barcodes and provide “one click” access to mobile content. Combining this technology with advanced analytics and reporting capabilities revolutionizes the way advertisers market to mobile consumers. NeoMedia provides the infrastructure to make 2D camera barcode scanning and its associated commerce easy, universal, and reliable – worldwide.

The company’s mobile phone technology, NeoReader, reads and transmits data from 1D, and 2D barcodes to its intended destination. Our Code Management and Code Clearinghouse platforms create, connect, record, and transmit the transactions embedded in the 1D and 2D barcodes, like web-URLs, text messages (SMS), and telephone calls, ubiquitously and reliably. NeoMedia provides the industrial and carrier-grade infrastructure to enable reliable, scalable, and billable commerce. NeoMedia was founded in 1989, and is based in Atlanta, USA. It currently has 30 active patents spanning 13 countries, with 29 additional patents pending.

This press release contains forward-looking statements within the meaning of section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. With the exception of historical information contained herein, the matters discussed in this press release involve risk and uncertainties. Actual results could differ materially from those expressed in any forward-looking statement.

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