Thank you for sharing!

Your article was successfully shared with the contacts you provided.
A federal jury in Minneapolis has returned a $7.4 million verdict for an inventor whose patent for a utility meter-reading device was willfully infringed upon by a Spokane, Wash.-based company. In 1999, Ralph Benghiat, a 74-year-old computer scientist who had worked for the U.S. Navy, Marines and Air Force, approached the company, Itron Inc., about licensing his patent for a meter-reading device that used an algorithm designed to allow greater flexibility in the collection of water, gas and electrical-use data. After declining even to discuss licensing, Itron invited Benghiat and his lawyer to its Minneapolis office to talk about conflicts between his patent and a meter-reader that was currently in Itron’s product line. At that meeting, Benghiat opened the back of a third party’s reader given to him by Itron, that the company claimed predated Benghiat’s 1981 patent application. He discovered inside a chip bearing the date 1983 that operated on an analogous algorithm. Nonetheless, Itron sued, seeking a declaration that the prior art voided Benghiat’s patent claim. He countersued for infringement. Itron asserted that its device was qualitatively different from Benghiat’s. His lawyer, David C. Bohrer, a partner at Oppenheimer Wolff & Donnelly, successfully countered that the only difference was that Itron’s chip had more memory, a function of the rapid increase in memory available for such devices that occurred in the years after Benghiat’s filing. The algorithm, which defined the patent, had remained the same, Bohrer said. On Dec. 20, the jury unanimously found that Itron had willfully infringed on Benghiat’s patent. Based on an expert-established royalty rate of 5.25 percent, the jury awarded $7.4 million in damages covering April 1993 to December 2002. That award may yet be trebled by the court. The willfulness finding also entitles Benghiat to attorney fees, estimated at more than $1 million. Bohrer said, “This is a classic case of David beating Goliath.” Itron’s attorneys, the Minneapolis firm of Thuente, Skaar & Christensen, did not return calls seeking comment.

This content has been archived. It is available through our partners, LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law.

To view this content, please continue to their sites.

Not a Lexis Advance® Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Not a Bloomberg Law Subscriber?
Subscribe Now

Why am I seeing this?

LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law are third party online distributors of the broad collection of current and archived versions of ALM's legal news publications. LexisNexis® and Bloomberg Law customers are able to access and use ALM's content, including content from the National Law Journal, The American Lawyer, Legaltech News, The New York Law Journal, and Corporate Counsel, as well as other sources of legal information.

For questions call 1-877-256-2472 or contact us at [email protected]

Reprints & Licensing
Mentioned in a Law.com story?

License our industry-leading legal content to extend your thought leadership and build your brand.


ALM Legal Publication Newsletters

Sign Up Today and Never Miss Another Story.

As part of your digital membership, you can sign up for an unlimited number of a wide range of complimentary newsletters. Visit your My Account page to make your selections. Get the timely legal news and critical analysis you cannot afford to miss. Tailored just for you. In your inbox. Every day.

Copyright © 2021 ALM Media Properties, LLC. All Rights Reserved.