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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Law Firms Sued for Letting Diamond Patent Lapse

This comes from “the dog ate my homework” department.

GemEx, the makers of a device that measures the light-performance quality of gemstones have sued their former patent attorneys, contending they negligently let a critical patent lapse, allowing competitors to copy the technology, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports.

The Mequon, Wisc.-based company uses a patented process that scientifically measures and records the interplay of light reflecting and refracting within diamonds (marketed as “brilliance,” “fire” and “sparkle”) using using scientific spectrophotometry (marketed as the "Brilliancescope," pictured above).

The suit, filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court, reportedly says that GemEx owned the market for this type of gem testing because its patent prevented others from using the proprietary process. The patent, according to the suit, was issued in 1997 and would have lasted until 2014.

But GemEx reportedly says their patent lawyers failed to file a maintenance fee in 2004, and, as a result, the patent expired in 2005. Since then, competitors have been using the technology and cutting into GemEx's share of the market, the suit reportedly contends.

The complaint names the Milwaukee law firms Andrus, Sceales, Starke & Sawall and Cook & Franke, plus its former partner, Jeffrey S. Sokol, according to the report.

The complaint reportedly states that the Andrus firm missed a payment in 2004. Then it failed to inform its client. In addition, when Sokol took over the account and moved to Cook & Franke in 2005, the file for the patent didn't make the transfer.

That left everyone so out of the loop that no one even petitioned to reinstate the patent within the two-year window to do so, the suit reportedly contends.

The plaintiffs reportedly said they didn't learn the patent had expired until November 2008. With new counsel, they finally got the patent reinstated in 2010, but competitors already had made inroads during the five years it was lapsed, according to the suit.

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