Have you heard about the recent US lawsuit involving QR codes? Are you using QR Codes in your business? Do you know the rules around their use? Have you considered if you are infringing on any laws in using a QR code?
Recent QR Code Case
In 2022, US company Neomedia filed a lawsuit in a US court claiming an infringement of its patent in a specific use of QR codes. Many people are concerned about what this means for them using QR codes in their business.
What is a QR Code?
It is widely believed that the QR code system was invented by Masahiro Hara in 1994 from the Japanese company Denso Wave. They work through a picture code that directs the user to a specific website. There are a variety of different uses for QR codes and in 2015 it was even provided with its own International Standards Organisation standard “ISO/IEC 18004:2015”.
What is the lawsuit about?
The lawsuit refers to US Patents 6,199,048 and 8,131,597 which essentially grant Neomedia a patent to use a QR code to direct you to a shortcode such as google’s shortcode system. Most businesses use these codes to help track the behaviour of their users through the internet. Essentially Neomedia is claiming damages for its loss because it owns the patent and thus they must agree to using the process.
Importantly the lawsuit does not preclude the use of QR codes generally and QR codes can be used by anyone however you need to be aware of patents that might exist. At the time of writing this article the lawsuit has not finalised and we will update this article when a decision is reached or the matter is settled.
What is a patent?
Patents are generally understood to be a right that is granted to someone to exclusive use of a device, substance, method or process that is new, inventive and useful. There are over 15 million registered around the world so it is impossible to know all of the different devices, substances, methods and processes that are protected by patents. Different patents will apply in different countries and some will even cover multiple countries around the world.
What should you do?
The lawsuit alleges a very specific use of a QR code and whilst the case is yet to be decided it appears clear that the best course of action is to use QR codes to direct users to your website directly and not through a shortcode. You should speak to your website administrator to ensure that they put in place other ways to track your users behaviour.
How does the Business Legal Lifecycle work?
Unknown issues relating to QR codes is just one area of the law that you may not be aware of impacting your business. Whilst this is a novel area there are many risks in a business that you can resolve if you take a proactive approach to the legal risks in your business. That is why we created our Legal Risk Assessment. To help you to spot the legal risks in your business.
The assessment will actually save you money in the long term by empowering you with the confidence and knowledge to prevent the legal risks in your business. You can then go to your lawyer to reduce your legal risks to prevent legal risks and so many problems that commonly afflict small to medium sized businesses.
Get your Business Legal Lifecycle Legal Risk Assessment by clicking below.