US Postal Service sued for patent infringement

March 2, 2011 — Return Mail, Inc. filed a lawsuit on February 28, 2011,against the federal government alleging that the United States Postal Service is using the company’s patented process for handling undeliverable mail without permission. The lawsuit seeks compensation for unauthorized use of Return Mail’s patent. Covington & Burling LLP attorneys represent Return Mail.

Return Mail, a Birmingham, Alabama, corporation founded in 2000, invented an automated system that processes returned and undeliverable mail. Return Mail’s system provides benefits and costs savings to mailers. For example, it allows mailers to reduce the costs of manual handling and processing of return mail. It also improves the accuracy of the delivery of invoices, thereby increasing revenue for mailers using Return Mail’s system. The United States Patent and Trademark Office awarded Return Mail United States Patent Number 6,826,548 (“ ’548 Patent) for this invention.

Return Mail alleges in its complaint filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims that the Postal Service met with Return Mail at least five times to discuss licensing Return Mail’s invention. During those meetings, according to the complaint, the Postal Service learned the details of Return Mail’s invention and ultimately approved a pilot program to use it.

Return Mail invested millions of dollars and spent years developing its innovative and cost-saving system. In its complaint, Return Mail alleges that instead of licensing and paying for the use of Return Mail’s invention, the Postal Service took Return Mail’s invention and used it to create its own address change service called OneCode Address Correction Service (or “OneCode ACS”). The Postal Service projects savings of hundreds of millions of dollars each year from this system — so much that the Postal Service announced that it would offer OneCodeACS to its customers at no charge in most cases. Return Mail’s complaint alleges that the Postal Service’s announcement destroyed Return Mail’s business, forcing it to lay-off most of its employees.

As recounted in the complaint, the Postal Service asked the Patent and Trademark Office to invalidate Return Mail’s ’548 Patent. The PTO, however, rejected the Postal Service’s efforts, and on January 4, 2011, issued a reexamination certificate confirming the validity of Return Mail’s patent.

Return Mail Inc. Provides Return Mail Solutions.

  • Union man

    The USPS has provided return mail solutions since


  • Bigwheel

    I’ll bet that this so called invention of Return Mail uses the Postal Service’s established zip code system and delivery system.

  • therealworld

    After 25 yrs I have never seen the USPS do anything in a proper fashion. This is NO different . Skirting the rules has now become ignoring the law! Great leadership!

  • Mike

    If this is the same system that requires me to put the same letter in the return-to-sender pile only to have it come back multiple times, then it doesn’t work anyway.

  • t. vraniak

    Check and see who is the CEO/CFO and the Board of Directors of this company. It probably consists of x- postal executives like Stamps. com was in the past. Then any issues would be and should have been Code of Conduct and Ethics violations concering the original technology, and people involved.

  • G. Koontz

    All they’re looking for is a paycheck. The patent looks as if it was written solely to bring this suit, identifies a sequence of events like 1) unwind toilet paper, 2) wipe from front to rear, 3) repeat as necessary…not particularly innovative, but some bleading heart judge will probably throw them a bone – BTW, they’re using an ex AMS manager as a consultant. I personnaly hope they throw the thing out – were it not for the USPS they wouldn’t have even been in business at all.

  • 0ld clerk

    i will follow this one before i pass judgement on either party. however, knowing the usps as i do for the last 32 yrs.i know this.. they never do anything right the first time and sometimes not the second or third. also, they are always looking to take someone elses idea and run with it if it benefits them without paying a dime for the idea.. happened to a dear friend on the old lsm. he had great idea that went nationwide and didnt get squat for it.. ..may he rest in peace.he passed a few years ago..