May 03, 2023

Smartmatic defeats patent lawsuit from voting machine rival ES&S

April 25 (Reuters) - Voting technology company Smartmatic USA Corp on Tuesday fended off a patent infringement lawsuit brought by competitor Election Systems & Software LLC, persuading a federal judge that the last patent remaining in the case is invalid.

U.S. District Judge Richard Andrews in Delaware said the voting-machine patent covered unpatentable abstract ideas related to "the individual steps of voting."

"Our position has been vindicated and we look forward to putting this matter behind us," Smartmatic general counsel Colin Flannery said in a statement.

Representatives for ES&S did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Omaha, Nebraska-based ES&S sued the U.S. branch of London-based Smartmatic in Delaware in 2018. It said Smartmatic infringed two patents related to improved voter-assistance terminals and ballot-marking devices in voting machines that allow for "more accurate, secure, and efficient voting," especially for users with physical impairments.

ES&S said it learned of Smartmatic's alleged infringement when the companies both submitted bids for a project to modernize Los Angeles County's voting system, which Smartmatic won.

It asked the court for an undisclosed amount of damages, including lost profits from the Los Angeles County project.

ES&S dropped one of the patents from the case last year. Andrews ruled on Tuesday that the relevant parts of the remaining patent relate to the basic process of voting, covering the abstract idea of "giving voters a choice of returning or depositing their ballot."

The judge also said the patent did not include an "inventive concept" that would save it.

Smartmatic is separately pursuing a $2.7 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News over the network's airing of debunked claims that the company helped rig the 2020 U.S. presidential election for Joe Biden over Donald Trump.

Fox settled a similar defamation case brought by another voting-technology company, Dominion Voting Systems, for $787.5 million shortly before trial was set to begin last week.

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Blake Brittain reports on intellectual property law, including patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets, for Reuters Legal. He has previously written for Bloomberg Law and Thomson Reuters Practical Law and practiced as an attorney. Contact: 12029385713