Cross Match files patent suit against Mentalix/Surprema

Fingerprint dispute involves Census contract
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

TYLER, Texas—Cross Match Technologies, a maker of biometric identity devices, has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Korean manufacturer Suprema and its North American distributor Mentalix. Cross Match alleges Suprema’s live fingerprint scanner and 10-print roll scanner infringe on four of Cross Match’s patents.

Cross Match general counsel Kathryn Hutton said Cross Match had been monitoring Suprema’s activities, but only took action once Mentalix was awarded a contract with the US Census here in the United States. “That was their first significant entrance to the U.S. market,” she said, “and that’s what prompted the lawsuit.”

She said the infringement comes down to three basic functionalities. “One is the auto-capture of the fingerprint,” she said, “that allows the device to capture the fingerprint without the user of the device having to manage the capture. The other way is the way we capture rolling fingerprints. The third is an optical hardware configuration design ... We believe they’re all significant features.”

When reached for comment, Mentalix declined, but said they may be interested in commenting as the case travels through the court system. Suprema did not respond to an email sent to its Korean corporate offices.

Cross Match seeks a variety of relief from the court in its lawsuit, including a permanent injunction prohibiting Suprema’s and Mentalix’s sale of infringing products, as well as monetary damages, including treble damages for willful infringement and recovery of attorneys fees.

Hutton noted that Mentalix is involved in the suit, even though they’re just a distributor of the products, because “resellers are as liable as the manufacturer that makes the infringing goods.”

Mentalix develops FBI-certified fingerprint acquisition solutions for both end users and systems integrators, according to its web site. The text also reads, “The company leads the industry with the most IAFIS-compliant fingerprint solutions, and its API products are used as key components in turnkey systems by many of the top biometric developers worldwide. Mentalix targets custom systems integration and off-the-shelf imaging solutions for Windows and a variety of UNIX systems.” The company is based in Plano, Texas.

“We gave this matter very careful consideration,” Hutton said. “Patent litigation is expensive and time consuming, and we wouldn’t have brought this forward if we didn’t think the court would agree us.”