The New York times brings us a story about patents being used to block state regulation of bullet microstamping. Firearm microstamping imprints an identifying mark onto the bullet casing and the primer. See David Muradyan, Firearm Microstamping: A Bullet with a Name On It, 39 McGeorge L. Rev. 616 (2008).
California has passed a law supporting this technology, but the law is on hold, pending review of whether patent licenses are required to use the technology. The New York Times writes
In California, legislation signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2007 has been held up while the attorney general’s office makes sure the technology is unencumbered by patents, as the microstamping law requires. A gun rights group, the Calguns Foundation, went so far as to pay a $555 fee to extend a lapsing patent held by the developer to further delay the law from taking effect.
“It was a lot cheaper to keep the patent in force than to litigate over the issues,” said Gene Hoffman, the chairman of the foundation, adding that he believed the law amounted to a gun ban in California.
Todd Lizotte, an engineer who developed the method in the 1990s, said he wanted the patents to lapse and the technology to be in the public domain.
California might be considered an “innocent bystander” in a potential patent dispute over this technology. (With apologies to Warren Zevon.)