Landmark patent row could be far-reaching

Messages of support were last month flooding in for Monitoring Systems (MS), the small Kent firm that will fight for its very survival in the High Court over a patent lawsuit brought by a subsidiary of industrial giant, Anglo-American. News of the David and Goliath case, to be brought by Seattle, US-based Slope Indicator, has […]

Messages of support were last month flooding in for Monitoring Systems (MS), the small Kent firm that will fight for its very survival in the High Court over a patent lawsuit brought by a subsidiary of industrial giant, Anglo-American.

News of the David and Goliath case, to be brought by Seattle, US-based Slope Indicator, has sent shock waves through the industry, which fears that a ruling against MS could open the floodgates to a tide of lawsuits.

The patent, passed by USA and European agencies 10 years ago, affects anything covering `digitally based monitoring of physical phenomena’. According to MS managing director, Tony Thompson, that essentially affects 75% of all modern sensing devices.

`It encompasses digital sensors employing polling, typically industry standard RS485 type networks’ says Thompson. `Taken literally, even a fax machine could fall within the category,’ he told C&I.

Now the company, with a workforce of just 30 and an annual turnover of £1 million, faces legal defence fees of £250,000. `If Slope wins, we’ll simply go under,’ says Thompson.