Jerome Lemelson died almost exactly 12 years ago, and today he received yet another patent. This one is the fourth -- and last -- in a chain of continuations going back only to 1996. That's forty years less priority than his immediately previous issuance, U.S. Patent No. 7,343,660. Notably, today's patent was submitted with a request for non-publication. Also notable is that Lemelson's patent attorney is a co-inventor.
According to his foundation's website, Lemelson submitted about 40 patent applications in the year before he died. If their progeny were submitted with similar NPRs, we still would have no idea if we've seen the last of them. We do know that Lemelson now has 48 patents that were applied for after his death.
Of course, the value of these submarines is shrinking daily in a post-GATT world, where term is measured from filing rather than issue date. And there is that doctrine of prosecution laches that Lemelson famously helped revive.
But today's patent still has about 6.5 years of term left. I'm not aware of any facial recognition systems like this in current vehicles, yet I'd think that six years of potential damages would be more than enough to make litigation worthwhile if another sub from Lemelson's final fleet were to surface in the right waters... We'll have to wait and see.
Claim 1 is presented below.
U.S. Patent No.
Facial-recognition vehicle security system
Inventors: Jerome H. Lemelson & Louis J. Hoffman
(a) an electronic camera positioned to scan at least a portion of the face of a person located at the driver's station of the vehicle and structured to produce image signals;
(b) an electronic facial-recognition system responsive to the image signals and controllably coupled to the enabling system; and
(c) an electronic storage device coupled to the facial-recognition system to store a set of image signals, such that the facial-recognition system activates the enabling system only if signals representative of select characteristics of the scanned face of the person derived from the image signals produced on the camera's output match a member of a set of signals stored in the electronic storage device, each member representative of select characteristics of the scanned face of an authorized operator.