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Success for Craske & Co. in National Patent Dispute


Craske & Co. has won a significant victory in a national patent dispute involving the Home Office.

Footwear markA footwear identification system was developed by a Devon inventor, Dudley Crossling, a scene of crime officer with Devon and Cornwall police. We filed the first patent application for Mr Crossling in 1996 and a number of patents have since been granted in the United States and Europe.

The computerised system allows police forces to identify criminals using their footwear, and is a major new weapon in the fight to reduce domestic burglaries. The system maps the co-ordinates of unique identifying features in the sole resulting from damage, wear or manufacturing defects, allowing imprints to be quickly and accurately retrieved from storage and correlated to a high level of accuracy. As a result, the criminal activities of an individual can be accurately plotted over a period of time, and the information retrieved from the system can be used as evidence in criminal proceedings.

The European patent was opposed by the Home Office because the system would allow local police forces to track down criminals with less reliance on the use of expert forensic evidence, resulting in a loss of work for the Government's Forensic Science Service. The Government argued that the new system was merely a minor development of existing systems. The opposition was based on an old footwear database system known as SICAR which logs footwear using their moulded tread patterns, and a fingerprint searching system which retrieves fingerprints using the unique dermal ridge patterns inherent in all fingerprints.

FingerprintAn oral hearing took place at the European Patent Office in Munich on 12 December 2002, in which we represented the Patentee. We argued that none of the earlier systems suggested using the co-ordinates of unique identifying features for image indexing and retrieval. We highlighted differences in the SICAR system which made it incapable of accurate retrieval, and we argued that fingerprint systems were not relevant since fingerprints are inherently unique, and they are also prone to distortion making them unsuitable for use in any co-ordinate based system.

The Opposition Division decided against the Home Office and upheld the European patent.

The decision means that the new footwear identification system can now be installed in local police stations throughout the country. The equipment has already been tested by Devon and Cornwall police, and fully operational systems are currently in use by the London Metropolitan Police and Leicester constabulary.

Craske & Co., 2003


Last updated: March 2006