WO2008046088A2 - Method for improving security and enhancing information storage, the system and the apparatus for operating the method - Google Patents

Method for improving security and enhancing information storage, the system and the apparatus for operating the method Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2008046088A2
WO2008046088A2 PCT/US2007/081324 US2007081324W WO2008046088A2 WO 2008046088 A2 WO2008046088 A2 WO 2008046088A2 US 2007081324 W US2007081324 W US 2007081324W WO 2008046088 A2 WO2008046088 A2 WO 2008046088A2
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WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
item
system
means
positioning
identifier
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2007/081324
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2008046088A3 (en
Inventor
William Jeffries
Kamal Mustafa
Richard Smith
Original Assignee
Secure Symbology, Inc.
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Priority to US82925006P priority Critical
Priority to US60/829,250 priority
Priority to US86289706P priority
Priority to US60/862,897 priority
Application filed by Secure Symbology, Inc. filed Critical Secure Symbology, Inc.
Publication of WO2008046088A2 publication Critical patent/WO2008046088A2/en
Publication of WO2008046088A3 publication Critical patent/WO2008046088A3/en

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00516Details of printing apparatus
    • G07B2017/00556Ensuring quality of print
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00572Details of printed item
    • G07B2017/0058Printing of code
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00572Details of printed item
    • G07B2017/0058Printing of code
    • G07B2017/00588Barcode
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00661Sensing or measuring mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00669Sensing the position of mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00677Keeping track of mailpieces inside apparatus

Abstract

The present invention relates broadly to a method and apparatus for improving aspects of information security regarding packaged items, information delivery, and information dissemination as well as information storage. In particular, the invention relates to an apparatus and system for controllably adapting a system to an existing production line configuration so as to enable a set up, a position, a transport and a package along a stream of successive products which are bar-coded, inspected, recorded, and safety-sealed in accordance with the inventive method, wherein the present system data provides a serialized identifier incorporating a random part and a sequential part and uploads all production data to a secure database via the world wide web.

Description

INTERNATIONAL PATENT APPLICATION FOR

METHOD FOR IMPROVING SECURITY AND ENHANCING INFORMATION STORAGE, THE SYSTEM AND THE APPARATUS FOR OPERATING THE

METHOD

INVENTORS: William Jeffries

Centerville, VA

Prepared by:

Lackenbach Siegel, LLP Lackenbach Siegel Building

One Chase Road Scarsdale, New York 10583

Tel: (914) 723-4300 Fax: (914) 723-4301 PATENT 2 SECUR.P019PCT

METHOD FOR IMPROVING SECURITY AND ENHANCING INFORMATION STORAGE, THE SYSTEM AND THE APPARATUS FOR OPERATING THE

METHOD

PRIORITY CLAIM

This application claims priority from U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/829,250 filed October 12, 2006, and US Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/862,897, filed October 25, 2006, the entire contents of each of which are herein fully incorporated by reference.

FIGURE SELECTED FOR PUBLIC ATION

Fig. IA

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates broadly to a method and apparatus for improving aspects of information security regarding packaged items, information delivery, and information dissemination as well as information storage. In particular, the invention relates to an apparatus and system for controllably operating a production line configured to set up, position, transport and package a stream of successive products to be bar-coded, inspected, recorded, and safety-sealed in accordance with the inventive method. PATENT 3 SECUR.P019PCT

2. Description of the Related Art

Since their invention in the early 1950's, various forms of bar codes have accelerated the flow of products and information throughout the global business community. Coupled with the improvements in data accuracy that accompanies the adoption of bar code technology over keyboard data entry, bar code systems are now critical elements in conducting business in the global economy. Today, bar codes are used in just about every type of business application: point-of-sale (POS), retail, warehousing, trans-shipping, port-operations, etc. Bar codes are printed on many types of alternative substrates, individual items, and on various containers enclosing a number of items. Bar codes carry information encoded into bars and spaces of various widths, arranged in predetermined patterns. The bars and spaces are made up of unit elements called modules. A number of different one-dimensional bar code symbologies (alternatively called or referred to as lD-encodation schemes or ID symbologies, e.g., the most common long-bar type bar codes) exist. These symbologies include, but are not necessarily limited to: UPC-A, UPC-E, EAN-8, EAN-13 and UCC/EAN-128 and/or other common- type and known ID bar codes as defined by the representative governing councils, and standards defining organizations. This may also include applicable Application Identifiers, UCC Coupon Value Codes and HIBC UCC/EAN-128 Secondary Input Data formats encoded in UCC/EAN-128, among others known in the ID bar code symbology field. Unfortunately, traditional ID bar codes, due to their low information density storage capacity, can carry only a limited amount of information, on the order of ten to twenty letters or digits assigned under relative standards to general-level type information. This general-level type information is usually an index to a particular file or a general database where general-level information (country code, manufacture's name, type of product, UCC identification, etc.) is stored regarding a manufacturer or type of PATENT 4 SECUR.P019PCT

product. Unfortunately, bar codes as "dumb" vehicles for information have the limitation of being held to a space requirement that puts a ceiling on the amount of information that can be contained in the bar code.

With the advent of two-dimensional (2 -D) encodation schemes (alternatively called 2D symbologies or 2D encodation schemes) for bar codes such as: DataMatrix, PDF-417, Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) and Composite Symbology (CS), the amount of information that may be placed into the physical bar code (within a smaller footprint) increased. 2-D symbols or codes are called two-dimensional because the data in the code is contained in both the horizontal direction (like 1-D/linear codes) and additionally in the vertical direction. Overall, two-dimensional (2-D) bar codes carry more information per substrate area than linear one-dimensional (1-D) bar codes.

Unfortunately 2-D bar code use (and 2D symbology use) in the retail sector is substantially limited by the requirements dictated by the agreed-upon Uniform Code Council (UCC) standard symbology for retail, UPC-A bar codes. There remains, however, an increasing need for machine-readable symbols that contain more information than conventional bar code symbols. These types of symbols are generally referred to as Reduced Space Symbology (RSS) and Composite Symbology (CS) symbols and should be understood as also being either types of ID or 2D symbologies depending upon their actual design (as will be discussed below), and may be included in references hereafter to ID or 2D symbologies as will be noted. hi sum, Composite Symbology (CS), which incorporates a 1-D linear component with a 2-D Composite Component, is a new class of symbology designed to address applications that are not being met by current technology solution sets. Composite Symbology (CS) should be understood as a combination of two encodation schemes, generally a ID and 2D scheme.

Unfortunately, where new 1-D, 2-D, or CS technology is created, infringers, copyists, counterfeiters, and other criminals rapidly attempt to duplicate or copy a PATENT 5 SECUR.P019PCT

particular bar code to gain legitimacy and move their goods into or through a legitimate means and into the opt-in manufacturer-supplier-customer.

In sum, while many infrastructure and practical concerns remain for the wide spread use of RFID technology, what is needed is a technology that bridges the gaps between known bar-code technology and the future RFID systems at the present time.

These concerns are addressed by U. S. Patent Nos. 7,207,481 and 7,261,235, commonly owned with this application and disclosing, among others, the following method: enumerating an item specific designation for a user specified item; encoding the enumerated item specific designation into a readable composite symbology encodation; the composite symbology encodation, comprising: at least a first and a second encoded symbology portion, wherein the at least first and second portions are electronically joined during the step of encoding and require a combination of the portions to read the encoded item specific designation; deconstructing the readable composite symbology encodation into the at least first and second encoded symbology portions rendering at least one of the at least first and second portions separately unreadable without the other; applying one of the deconstructed at least first and second encoded symbology portions to the user specified item; transferring the user specified item to at least a first authorized party; transferring the other of the at least first and second encoded symbology portions to the at least first authorized party separately from the user specified item; and reconstructing the at least first and second encoded symbology portions and into the readable composite symbology encodation, thereby enabling the authorized party to conduct a step of reading the composite symbology encodation and determining the item specific designation.

A need, therefore, remains for a system allowing physical implementation of the inventive method, as well as other methods for generating and applying unique bar codes. Another need exists for a simple and effective interface allowing the operator to effectively use the system in a securable and traceable manner. PATENT 6 SECUR.P019PCT

ASPECTS AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

One aspect of the present invention is to provide a system and method responding to at least one of the needs noted above.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system, for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use, the system comprising: an item control system, comprising means for controlling a movement of the item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path, a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with the item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least the item and the system in a secure database system and for enabling an operable association of the at least one unique encoded identifier with the item and an inspection of the at least one unique identifier following the operable association, the means for controlling the movement of the item further comprising: at least a first metering system means for receiving the item from the first upstream position and for metering a release of the item along the item flow path, an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving the metered item from the first metering system means and for controllably positioning and spacing the item relative to a system determined position on the item flow path, a item control and association system means for receiving the item from the item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning the item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with the item in a manner perceivable to a user of the system, a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of the associated unique encoded identifier and for recording the determination in the secure database system, the means in the operable interaction with the item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising: means for authenticating the secure computerized automated system and the item control system PATENT 7 SECUR.P019PCT with the secure database and for storing the unique identifier and the determination of acceptability associated with the item.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein the at least one unique encoded identifier represents at least a first random generated portion and at least a second sequential portion relative to an earlier associated unique encoded identifier.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: the secure computerized automated system includes a means for converting the associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed encodation in the secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of the system is enhanced.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, further comprising: post transfer means for enabling a user of the system to scan the associated unique identifier associated with the item and for securely accessing the secure computerized automated system for conducting a comparison of the scanned and associated unique identifier with the stored unique identifier and for rendering a comparison authentication determination, whereby an item-user security is improved.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: the at least one unique encoded identifier further includes encoded data relating at least one of an item product code data, a product expiration date data, an item lot number data,

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: the association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with the item in a manner perceivable to a user of the system, further comprises: a printer module system for printing the unique encoded identifier on the item along the item flow path, whereby the printed unique encoded identifier is perceivable to a visual user of the system. PATENT 8 SECUR.P019PCT

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: the means for controlling the movement of the item further comprises: protective cover application means for applying at least one of a dryable fluid clear film and a dryable fluid clear protective film over the printed unique encoded identifier on the item at a position further downstream along the item flow path from the printer module system.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: each of the dryable fluid clear film and the dryable fluid clear protective film are selected from a group if of dryable fluid clear films comprising an aqueous-based dryable fluid clear film and a non-aqueous based dryable fluid clear film.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: the protective cover application means is at least one of a spray-operated application means and a roller-operated application means.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: each the dryable fluid clear film and the dryable fluid clear protective film contains an organic film-forming molecule upon the drying of the film.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a system is provided, wherein: at least one of the item control system and the secure computerized automated system further comprising: means for wireless transmission of the stored plurality of inputs from the secure database system to an external secure database system.

According to another aspect of the present invention, a method is provided for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use, the method comprising the steps of: operating an item control system, the item control system comprising means for controlling a movement of the item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path, operating a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with the item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least the item and the system in a secure database system and for enabling an PATENT 9 SECUR.P019PCT operable association of the at least one unique encoded identifier with the item and an inspection of the at least one unique identifier following the operable association, the step of operating the item control system further comprising the steps of: operating at least a first metering system means for receiving the item from the first upstream position and for metering a release of the item along the item flow path, operating an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving the metered item from the first metering system means and for controllably positioning and spacing the item relative to a system determined position on the item flow path, operating a item control and association system means for receiving the item from the item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning the item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with the item in a manner perceivable to a user of the system, operating a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of the associated unique encoded identifier and for recording the determination in the secure database system, the means in the operable interaction with the item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising the steps of: operating means for authenticating the secure computerized automated system and the item control system with the secure database and for storing the unique identifier and the determination of acceptability associated with the item.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method wherein: the at least one unique encoded identifier represents at least a first random generated portion and at least a second sequential portion relative to an earlier associated unique encoded identifier.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided a method wherein: an operating of the secure computerized automated system further comprises the steps of: converting the associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed encodation in the secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of the system is enhanced. PATENT 10 SECUR.P019PCT

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use, the apparatus comprising: a control system, comprising means for controlling a movement of the item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path, a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with the control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least the item and the system in a secure database system and for enabling an operable association of the at least one unique encoded identifier with the item and an inspection of the at least one unique identifier following the operable association, the means for controlling the movement of the item along the flow path, further comprising: at least a first metering roller system means for receiving the item from the first upstream position and for metering a release of the item along the item flow path, an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving the metered item from the first metering roller system means and for controllably positioning and spacing the item relative to a system determined position on the item flow path, a item control and association system means for receiving the item from the item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning the item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with the item in a manner perceivable to a user of the system, a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of the associated unique encoded identifier and for recording the determination in the secure database system, the means in the operable interaction with the item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising: means for authenticating the secure computerized automated system and the item control system with the secure database and for storing the unique identifier and the determination of acceptability associated with the item.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, wherein: the secure computerized automated system includes a means for converting the associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed PATENT 11 SECUR.P019PCT

encodation in the secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of the system is enhanced.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, wherein: the at least a first metering roller system means for receiving the item from the first upstream position and for metering a release of the item along the item flow path at a pre-determined interval, and the at least first metering roller system further comprises at least opposing roller members for enabling both a metering contact with the item and a pass-through driven contact with the item and vertical adjustment means for adjusting a position of the opposing roller members relative to the item and the flow path, whereby the apparatus is readily adjustable to a variety of differently sized items.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, wherein: the item positioning and spacing system means for receiving the metered item from the first metering roller system means and for controllably positioning and spacing the item relative to a system determined position on the item flow path, further comprises, first and second opposing belt systems defining a gap there between for contacting opposing sides of the item and receiving the item for positioning and spacing relative to a status of the item control and association system means, gap adjustable means for adjusting the gap to enable a contact of the item metered from the at least first metering roller system, computer controlled means for regulating an transfer speed of the opposing first and second belt systems contacting the item, whereby the item positioning and spacing means enables a controlled positioning and spacing of the item relative to the status of the item control and association system means.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, wherein: the item control and association system means includes third and forth co-planar belts having contacting-item surfaces perpendicular to the first and second opposing belt systems in the item positioning and spacing system means, means for adjusting a position of the third and forth co-planar belts so as to reach an outer edge location of respective opposing sides of the item, whereby the co-planar belts enable a PATENT 12 SECUR.P019PCT

positioning of a print-ready surface of the item respective to the association module means for associating the unique encoded identifier on the item.

According to another aspect of the present invention, there is provided an apparatus, wherein: the item control and association system means further comprises a rejected quality removal system for removing an item having an associated unique identifier that is not acceptable according the quality control system means, and the rejected quality removal system further includes a rejected-item chute member for receiving rejected items and transferring the same away from the item flow path to minimize a risk if interference therewith. The present invention relates broadly to a method and apparatus for improving aspects of information security regarding packaged items, information delivery, and information dissemination as well as information storage. In particular, the invention relates to an apparatus and system for controllably adapting a system to an existing production line configuration so as to enable a set up, a position, a transport and a package along a stream of successive products which are bar-coded, inspected, recorded, and safety-sealed in accordance with the inventive method, wherein the present system data provides a serialized identifier incorporating a random part and a sequential part and uploads all production data to a secure database via the world wide web.

The above, and other objects, features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent from the following description read in conduction with the accompanying drawings, in which like reference numerals designate the same elements.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Fig. 1 is a perspective view of the inventive system mounted to a movable frame.

Fig. IA is a perspective view of the inventive system in operation with a feeding and an off-take conveyor. PATENT 13 SECUR..P019PCT

Fig. 2 is an overall perspective view of the inventive system without a frame noting the three principal movement systems, the metering system, the positioning module and system, and the control and printing/verification system, as will be discussed.

Fig. 2A is front side elevational view of Fig. 2. Fig. 2B is a top side view of Fig. 2.

Fig. 3A is a perspective front elevational view of a metering roller system or module.

Fig. 3B is a front side elevational view of Fig. 3 A.

Fig. 3 C is a right side elevational view of Fig. 3 A. Fig. 3D is a schematic side view of the metering rollers in Fig. 3A during a box metering action.

Fig. 4A is a left side perspective view of a carton positioning and spacing module according to the inventive system.

Fig. 4B is a top side view of Fig. 4A. Fig. 4C is a front side elevational view of Fig. 4A.

Fig. 4D is a schematic side view of a transition from the metering roller system to the carton positioning and spacing system and module.

Fig. 4E is a schematic top side view of a portion of Fig. 4D wherein a carton is positioned and spaced by opposing belt members. Fig. 5A is a perspective side view of a carton control and printing system according to the inventive system.

Fig. 5 A is a top side view of Fig. 5 A.

Fig. 5 C is a rear-side perspective view of Fig. 5 A in combination with a quality rejection direction shoot member for dispersing quality failure cartons. Fig. 5D is a simplified view of a carton control portion of Fig. 5 A without carton controlling belts.

Fig. 5E is a further simplified view of Fig. 5D stripped of a right side adjustable portion. PATENT 14 SECUR.P019PCT

Fig. 5F is a perspective view of section 5F in Fig. 5E noting the drive mechanism.

Fig. 5G is a perspective view of section 5G in Fig. 5E noting a positioning locator member.

Fig. 5H is a perspective view of section 5H in Fig. 5E noting the lateral adjustment hand crank member for manually operating the cart control belts.

Fig. 51 is a schematic side view of a carton transfer from the carton positioning and spacing system and the carton control and printing system according to the inventive system.

Fig. 6A is a perspective side view of an adjustable bar-code printer head module and optional protective coating module according to the inventive system.

Fig. 6C is a top side perspective view of a printed bar-code quality control imager and recording/scanning system according to the inventive system.

Fig. 6E is a schematic side elevational view of cartons undergoing a controlled passage past the adjustable bar-code printer head module and optional protective coating module.

Fig. 6F is a left side sectional elevational view along 6F-6F in Fig. 6E noting the edge control of the carton by the belts and the close- adjacent positioning of the printing module.

Fig. 6G is a side schematic elevational view of the printer bar code quality control imager and recording scanning system.

Fig. 6H is a side schematic view of a reject-force and transit using the present inventive system for a carton failing quality control

Fig. 61 is a side schematic view of an optional protective coating applying member applying a protective coating over the earlier-printed bar code. Fig. 6J is an optional drying member for applying a drying energy to either or both of the printed bar code following printing and the optional protective coating following such coating. PATENT 15 SECUR.P019PCT

Fig. 7A is a flow diagram of the proposed inventive system containing optional steps.

Fig. 7B is a partial flow diagram of the proposed inventive system noting the optional application of a protective coating to the printed bar code at alternative process steps.

Fig. 7B' is an operational flow for an operation of the inventive system machine beginning with loading of job information and ending of uploading of information via the web to a secure database.

Fig. 7C is an image of a proposed log-in screen for users of the inventive system. Fig. 7D is an image of a entry screen of the inventive system allowing operators to enter control and operational variables to control the operational method.

Fig. 7E is an image of an alarm log control screen noting operational tracking alarms and associated detail data.

Fig. 7F is an image of a rejected log display of grades and images for each failed carton enabling unit-serialized control of the packaging and manufacturing stream, and tracking of each applied code throughout the inventive system.

Fig. 7G is an image of a screen for an alarm set point entry by an operator.

Fig. 7H is an image of a line sensor conveyor controller noting printer details, camera details and possible faults. Fig. 71 is an image of an operational job data filed building for a specific job, allowing tracking of printed units, rejection, a controllable pass rate and other operational variables.

Fig. 7J is an image of an administrative control interface allowing authorized individual access to the administrative controls of the inventive system. Fig. 7K is a product line setting entry screen wherein a particular product name and other run details are entered and confirmed.

Fig. 7L is an image of an overall print run control interface allowing control of carton sizes, location of print on the cartridge, tag type and tag data. PATENT 16 SECUR.P019PCT

Fig. 7M is a job information tracking screen in a print-location determining mode relative to a carton size.

Fig. 7N is an image of the tag properties tracking and layout data entry field allowing location of human readables, control of print areas, etc. of the inventive system. Fig. 70 is an image of the tag data properties and selectable identifier values of the inventive system.

Fig. 8A is a front perspective view of an alterative reduced-space metering printing and controlling module according to another aspect of the inventive system.

Fig. 8B is a front elevational perspective view of a metering and spacing control module according to Fig. 8 A.

Fig. 8C is an exploded view of the module in Fig. 8B

Fig. 8D is a frame according to Fig. 8A, wherein the metering and spacing module is shown including a series of pre-curser metering wheels and a later belt-driven control system for driving a carton past a printer, inspector, and control station. Fig. 8E is a side view according to Fig. 8A wherein a cross-section of the vertical upright discloses the vertical adjustment feature allowing adjustable positioning of the metering and controlling head module relative to a container flow stream placed relative thereto.

Fig. 8F is a schematic front perspective view of an adjustment mechanism according to the present inventive aspect view as shown in Fig. 8E.

Fig. 8G is a side elevational view of the system in Fig. 8A positioned relative to a feeding roller, a transitional support roller adjacent a print and inspection head module, and an off-take roller.

Fig. 8H is a side elevational view of Fig. 8G noting position of the transitional roller proximate printer and scanner head members. PATENT 17 SECUR.P019PCT

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Reference will now be made in detail to several embodiments of the invention that are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Wherever possible, same or similar reference numerals are used in the drawings and the description to refer to the same or like parts or steps. The drawings are in simplified form and are not to precise scale. For purposes of convenience and clarity only, directional terms, such as top, bottom, up, down, over, above, and below may be used with respect to the drawings. These and similar directional terms should not be construed to limit the scope of the invention in any manner. The words "connect," "couple," and similar terms with their inflectional morphemes do not necessarily denote direct and immediate connections, but also include connections through mediate elements or devices. The words "system'V'assembly", "module'V'station", "carton"/"product"/"item" are used interchangeably in manners that will be understood by those of skill in the art.

Referring to Figs. 1 through Fig. 6 J, an inventive assembly or system 10 for controllably printing bar codes on successive products or items 1OA is removably mountable to a frame 12 which is operative to transport system 10 to the desired location in a mobile manner relative to an input stream 12A form a fixed carton follow path and a downstream off- feed stream 12B to rejoin a fixed carton flow path.

The frame 12 may have a variety of configurations subject only to a convenient operation of system 10, as will be understood by those of skill in the art of constructing complex equipment having studied the present disclosure. As shown in the illustrative example of FIG. 1, frame 12 has a plurality of casters 14 freely spinnable about respective vertical axles so as to allow the operator to orient the frame in the desired position. Upon establishing the desired position, supports 16 are displaceably lowered to stabilize frame 12 and prevent voluntary displacement of frame 12 during a printing operation. PATENT 18 SECUR.P019PCT

As shown in FIGS. 2-4 in addition to FIG. 1, inventive assembly 10 is operative to advance a stream of products 1OA to be bar-coded along a transport path 20 towards a packaging station (not shown) following downstream travel along flow 12B. The assembly 10 is configured with a carton metering roller module 1, also referred to as a metering system positioned along an upstream of transport path 21. A carton-positioning module 2 also called a an item positioning and spacing system 2, a print/inspection conveyor module 3 also called an item control and association system 3 for receiving packages from module 2, a printer module 4, an inspection module 5, a reject/verification module 6 and a drying module 7, optionally a clear protective film coating module 7A, a computer control input and operational module 500, and a wireless antenna system 501 are also provided as shown. Thus, assembly 10 is constructed with a plurality of modules or units each of which can be separately manufactured, installed and further replaced without a need for restructuring the entire assembly. Alternatively, all of the modules may be supported by a single continuous platform, but still have respective configurations allowing each of the modules to be separately manufactured and replaced.

Referring to FIGS. 3A-3D, carton-metering module 1 is operative to separate a slug of cartons or items already 1-D bar-coded upstream from the carton-metering module for presentation to the subsequent operations. The carton-metering module 1 has a set of stationary, driven rollers 20 on the bottom and a set of un-powered (but optionally powered) top rollers 22 that are adjustable in the up/down direction, indicated by a double-head arrow, on a linear slide 24 with a position counter. This adjustment is only for setting the system's in feed for the carton/item/product height during set-up, and is not used during the operation following set-up. The carton-metering module 1 has a roller base or housing 28 supporting an actuator 30, which may be configured, among others, as a servo motor, a torque transmission unit 26 operative to transmit a torque from actuator 30 to an axle which supports these rollers, and linear slide 24. The linear slide 24 is coupled to a bracket 32, which supports un-powered freely rotatable roller 22, and configured with a plurality of guide rods 34. The bracket 32 travels along linear slide 24 PATENT 19 SECUR.P019PCT

so as establish a desired metering distance between stationary and un-powered rollers 20 and 22, respectively, corresponding to the height of a carton in response to a signal indicating the size of cartons. As such, driven rollers 20 are operative to establish a rate at which each carton is advanced to the downstream stations, while un-powered rollers orient the cartons in an initially substantially uniform position. It will be recognized that rollers 20, 22 may be preferably elastomeric and have a degree of softness tailor-able to a desired retention on item/container 1OA so as to provide grip and traction.

Additionally, it is contemplated to provide rollers 20 and 22 with motion in a horizontal plane perpendicular to a longitudinal axis A-A of assembly 10. Such motion would allow the rollers to adjust to the width of cartons along slot 32A.

FIGS. 4A-4E illustrate carton-positioning station or module 2 operative to establish the final desired orientation and spacing of the cartons 1OA along the downstream stretch of travel path 21. The carton-positioning module 2 is configured with a base 36 provided with two guide units 40 at least one of which is operative to move in a horizontal direction perpendicular to longitudinal axis A-A of assembly 10 in order to establish the desired width between guide units 40. The desired width corresponds to a width of cartons 1OA and allows stretches of belts 42 or a simple replacement of belts 42 for proper sizing and tension control, which face one another, to reliably engage respective sides of cartons 1OA, properly position and guide each carton along travel path 21.

At least one of units 40 is provided with a belt actuator 44 configured, for example, as a servo motor, and a transmission system 46 coupling actuator 44 to belt 42 so that the belt runs along an endless path. The orientation of belts 42 is realized by respective brackets 48 preventing the slippage of the belts. Displacement of at least one of guide units 40 along a base 36 may be realized electronically or manually, and where electronically may be readily computer controlled or manually controlled for accuracy. In either case, unit or units 40 are operative to travel along a plurality of guide rods 50 traversing respective units 40 so as to prevent deviation PATENT 20 SECUR.P019PCT

of units 40 from the horizontal path. If the manual adjustment is desired, module 2 has a steering or adjustment wheel 52 allowing the operator to actuate displacement of unit 40 manually. As illustrated, only one unit 40 is operative to move, while the other unit 40 is fixed to base 36. However, as mentioned above, both units 40 maybe displaceable. Figs. 5A-5Iillustrate print/inspection conveyor module 3 configured to advance cartons along path 21 by the print/inspection/reject modules. The module 3 includes a pair of cleated, toothed, or inter-regulated conveyors 54 that push a carton for positive positioning and rate control during a printing operation. This type of control is required when printing barcodes that are sensitive to bar growth or slip in the travel direction along path 21 and the clarity of the edges on the bars. Here cleat conveyors 54 are shown as two belts, but a single or multiple belts may be employed without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention, allowing for continuous running for printing technologies that require the carton to be in motion when printing (ink-jet), or it can index repeated to stop the carton at the printing module for printing technologies that require static printing condition, and then re-start again.

The conveyor module 3 includes a base 56 supporting a belt frame 58. A plurality of guide rods 60 traverse frame 58 perpendicular to longitudinal axis A-A of assembly 10 and configured to provide guidance for frame 58. The belts 54 are driven by a common splined shaft 54A, by a drive motor 54B driving a transfer system 54C, and are adjustable for carton width in a direction perpendicular to longitudinal axis A-A. As the rest of stations, module 3 has a positioning counter that allows the displaced conveyor to return to an initial set up position. The module 3 also has an encoder 62 operative to accurately relay the carton position to printing module 4. The encoder 62 is directly driven on the surface of conveyors 54. Adjustment of conveyors 54 to the carton width may be realized automatically or manually.

Referring to Figs. 6A-6G, print module 4 and verification/inspection module 5 are respectively configured to apply the inventive Track & Trace (TT) token according to several embodiments, which will be briefly disclosed below, and verify each printed PATENT 21 SECUR.P019PCT

unique TT encodation via a secure database. The print and inspection modules 4 and 5, respectively, may be detachably coupled to one another to define a print/inspection location or may be spaced at selected locations relative to the operations of module 3 without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention. The units can accommodate a surge of cartons per minute based on the printing technology employed. The unit 4 is designed to interface with the Secure Symbology TT control system or CPU 100 (FIG. 1). The CPU sends the print requirements to printer module 4 which prints a unique indicia or token on a carton panel of a carton 1OA passing the printing heads. The unique indicia or token can be human readable text, barcode, or a RSS code or any form or combination of code without departing from the scope and spirit of the present invention.

The print module 4 is configured to print on different panels of the carton as desired by the operator, shown here in very close association with the carton 1OA to effect an ink-jet printing use. The inspection section 5 is operative to read the printed indicia or token as shown using image recognition software known to those of skill in the art and is transmitted back generating a result of the inspection to CPU 100 and a quality control and tracking. If the printed indicial token passes the inspection, it is recorded in CPU 100.

The cartons travel past the printer and verification modules at a constant speed of about 28 in/sec, but the speed is readily controllable and may vary depending on the application and printing/scanning/process speed. The printer and vision cameras 5A, are stationary during the printing and verification process, but can be adjusted during a set-up operation relative to feed member 3.

The assemblies of modules 4 and 5 is operative to move in a vertical plane along a guide column or slide 63 (Fig. 2A, 2B) to adjust the vertical position of the printer heads in accordance with the height of the carton 1OA, and the desired location of the printed label. The assembly is also adjustable in a horizontal plane perpendicular to longitudinal axis A-A via adjustment slide rails and hand cranks (as shown). The later adjustment is PATENT 22 SECUR.P019PCT

desirable for alignment of the print heads and may be adjusted for fine tuning when the printing assembly is replaced or reinstalled.

To apply the TT indicia or token, a carton 1OA to be tracked is labeled or identified with a determined and unique item specific designation, including for example higher order information such as associated manufacture, time, date, place, description, and NDC, and specific item information such as a serial number, and other item selective identifier effective (random number) to sufficiently identify a individual item in a discrete manner, e.g. a single ampoule of injectable medicine, or a single box containing a plurality of ampoules. The bar code indicial is printed through commercially accepted printing methods, either off site or on site (manufacturing location), including but not limited to methods such as flexographic, letter press, ink jet, laser, thermal, or other non- enumerated printing method.

It shall be noted that various linear drive members, including adjustment wheels 501 and linear sliding and locking supporting systems 502, as shown. Alternative embodiments of the present invention may be adapted for use in various manners to improve the ability to track or identify consumer products (e.g., pharmaceuticals, livestock, books, food items, clothing items, aircraft parts, automotive parts or other manufactured parts, cargo containers, luggage, personal identification documents (drivers licenses, passports, visa's, etc.), military construction items and parts); and as a result of this tracking or identifying achieve, at least in part, one of the concerns raised in the discussion above.

Pn other words alternative aspects of the present invention may be adapted for use in reducing counterfeiting, tracking events (such as sporting or entertainment events), minimizing human health concerns over patient consent or privacy or drug receipt, verifying product returns and recalls, tracking vaccines and other biological materials in a private manner, or tracking personnel (e.g. military, prisoner identification), etc.

As will be additionally noted in Fig. 6H, the quality rejection mechanism 6 includes a chute 6A, as shown. Similarly, an alternative aspect of the invention involves PATENT 23 SECUR.P019PCT

the application of a thin-film-based fluid protective coating with full optical transparency on the vertical face member of the box to cover the just-printed indicia for down-stream protection, all done on-the-fly, wherein the boxes 1OA move either at speed during coating or are optionally during a momentary stop depending upon the application method for the fluid protective coating. It shall be recognized that this type of coating is employed on large printed promotional formats, so that all prior use of such aqueous thin- film and nearly immediate drying liquids have been on a horizontal surface of a non- geometric shape (on flat sheets of goods seen as operating on only 2 dimensions for this discussion) Where such coatings are applied, or where the bar-code printing indicia requires drying, an additional dryer member 7B may be employed without departing from the skilled approach herein.

According to one alternative embodiment of the present invention, incorporating portions of this information, an RSS composite code is employed solely or partially as the printed indicial. In another alternative embodiment, a first code is created (usually a linear or ID bar code but alternatively a separate 2D or Composite (CS) code may be used as the first code.

This first code (A) (usually a linear code) is created by known technology bar code printing systems (usually by off-site printers or by in-line systems at a manufacturer's or user's production line) and would incorporate higher-level or higher- order information such as country code, manufacturer, product description, place of manufacture, etc.

A second code (B) is then created. This second code (B) includes specific defined item-level information, specific-item information, or individual-use information such as lot, serial number, pallet, date of manufacture, expiration date, URL access data etc, that is known about a determined item. This second code (B) is generated as a Composite Symbology (CS) code and includes a first part (Bl) and a second part (B2), where one or both parts is a 2D composite component, and where only one part is a 2D composite PATENT 24 SECUR.P019PCT

component the remaining part is a ID linear component, depending upon multiple alternative embodiments.

In other words, in one alternative embodiment the second code (here B'), includes a first part (Bl) is a linear component and a second part (B2) is a 2D component. In another alternative embodiment the second code (B") includes a first part (Bl) as a first 2D component and a second part (B2) as a second 2D component.

The present invention intentionally provides a portion of the data for the second code (B) in the first part (Bl) and continues that information into the second part (B2), creating a Composite Symbology code (B=Bl + B2) and rendering the second code (B) unreadable without simultaneously reading (scanning with a laser scanner) both the first (Bl) and second (B2) parts together, as part of a Composite Symbology code. This type of separation renders the second code (B) unreadable (un-scannable and unrecognizable) and without utility without both (Bl) and (B2) or other portions as will be described.

Alternative embodiments of the present invention may optionally provide additional electronic "hooks" or "tails" in either one of the first (Bl) or second parts (B2) of the second code (B) indicating to a properly programmed electronic reader that the other part of the second code (B) is a required element to the second code (rendering the Composite Symbology (CS) Code unreadable when separated) and preventing the reading of the second code (B) where either part (Bl, B2) is lacking. Alternative embodiments to this embodiment may optionally further divide the second code (B) into a third (B3) or even a forth part (B4), rendering the second code (B) unreadable without physically combining all the parts (Bl, B2, B3, or B4).

In another alternative embodiment the first code (A) may be similarly physically split into a first part (Al) and a second part (A2) and operate in a similar 'unreadable' manner for an additional layer of counterfeit protection. In this alternative embodiment, the item-label would be printed with two partial codes, for example Al and B2, (requiring A2 and Bl for comprehensive scanning) thereby preventing scanning at even the higher-level order of information. PATENT 25 SECUR.P019PCT

As an additional alternative embodiment, in either code (first code (A) or second code (B) human readable information may be printed immediately adjacent the code allowing for human-reading of the human-readable information and entering the information in a secure data base to reconstruct a damaged and un-scannable CS code based on the stored specific-item information.

As a consequence of the present design, a manufacturer, employing the present system, method, product, or apparatus would first initially generate a list of desired tracking information including higher-level and item-level, specific-item, or individual- use information and store that information in a secure "track-able" and useable database system specific to the individual or use. An alternative embodiment to the database system would provide an internet-linked or internet-based system allowing access from multiple geographically dispersed locations (or authorized supply chain partners) each accessible via a secured communication link.

In a first example of one alternative embodiment, for a single use item, e.g. single ampoule of medicine, the manufacture would electronically designate a first code (A) using CS or other technology code containing only higher-level information, and a second code (B) containing either both higher-level and item-level information or only item-level information, wherein the second code (B) is divided into at least a first part (Bl) and a second part (B2). It should be understood, that the selection of which type of information (serial number, pallet number, part number etc.) to encode using the present embodiment of the invention is a decision for the individual user. hi an alternative embodiment, where an industry is common to individual users (e.g., the drug industry), the users may collectively designate a third party to uniformly designate an information strategy for specific-item information (i.e. following a specific item-information encodation format for all drugs) and hence bring convenient unity to the industry and benefit all individuals. This third party would then provide designated information units in a common data base or set of data bases to each user for PATENT 26 SECUR.P019PCT

incorporation with their secure scanning methods and application to designated specific items.

Pn this example, the manufacture would then cause a physical item label to be printed for an item including the first code (A) and only one part or portion (Bl or B2) of the second code (B).

The manufacturer would then provide the non-selected part (Bl or B2) of the second code (B) in a secure manner to an authorized end user (Doctor, pharmacy, Hospital user etc.) trained in its use. This type of secure manner may include placing the non-selected part (of second code (B)) on a user specific ID card identifiable to a person, on a scannable card, or in other physical and electronic ways (programmed into a scanner or scanning control system, etc) common to conventional bar code uses. Thus a two-path delivery practice is provided for at least the physically split second code (B). One path being the label itself, and the second path being the secure transfer to the authorized end user. As a consequence, the specific item label may be read by scanning the first code

(A) into a data base and noting higher-level information (NDC, Manufacturer, etc.) but the label cannot be read by scanning the second code (B) without both parts. Thus, a counterfeiter, forger, or unauthorized user merely copying duplicating an existing label (e. g., stolen or lost label) cannot complete an electronic entry scan (and detect the code elements themselves) because the second code (B) cannot be read without both parts (Bl, B2).

An authorized user would scan the first code (A) on the label into the data base and then by completing code (B) (by either physically holding the unused part of the second code (Bl) next to printed part (B2) and physically completing the second code (B) or by electronically combining (Bl) and (B2) via computer programming solutions) thereby allowing for a completed and successful specific-item or item-level scan of the second code (B) and hence the entire label. hi another alternative or optional embodiment of the present invention, it is PATENT 27 SECUR.P019PCT

envisioned that a portion of the code may contain a portion of a secure URL or secure URL accessing authorization in the 1-D Linear portion and continue the URL address into the Composite 2-D portion, enabling the creation of a secure and coded hyperlink to send a validated scanner unit or computer (employing the secure separated part of the code) via the hyperlink to a secure website on the World Wide Web for access to specific-item information. Since the Composite Symbology code is only readable when both portions are combined or electronically entered, an unauthorized user cannot access the web cite with only a portion of the Composite Symbology. hi this present optional and alternative embodiment, an exemplary manufacturer may conduct the following exemplary steps:

1. Identifying a product for manufacture and coding identification.

2. Determining the numbering system used, i.e.: UPC-A, UPC-E, NDC, UPN, EAN- 13, EAN-8, EPC™, or other industry specific enumerators.

3. Enumerating (where needed) the prefix for country according to the numbering system.

4. Enumerating (where needed) the packaging level according to the numbering system.

5. Enumerating the designated manufacturer number according to the numbering system. 6. Enumerating the item by type, object, size, amount, transmission, lot, expiration date, or other higher-order information identifiers according an industry specific need, in the format of the numbering system selected.

7. Enumerating a unique specific-item designator (ex. serial number) for each individual item (ex. each pill, each dose, each unit, each person, each product, or other item depending upon the manufacturer's needs).

8. Incorporating the designated unique serial number for that specific item in a 2-D bar code, either encrypted or not, or optionally requiring or not a hook or link in the 2-D code to a second code (1-D) code to enable scanning/reading of the PATENT 28 SECUR.P019PCT

combined 2-D/l-D code, and decoding scanning/reading of the 2-D code by itself.

9. Applying that 2-D bar code to the product by commercially accepted offline or online printing methods producing a scannable 2-D bar code.

10. Generating a linked security 1-D bar code enabling reading of combination of the scannable/readable 2-D code and the 1-D code (for each designated supply chain individual) only when joined physically or electronically joined during the scanning/reading process.

11. Maintaining a secure database of each item and its unique specific-item identifying numbers, 2-D bar code, and authorized (linked/hooked or unlinked/unhooked) 1-D bar code.

12. Maintaining that database on in-house or on the World Wide Web for supply chain tracking or other tracking purposes (i.e. delivery or return purposes) for authorized supply chain partners, with access to the World Wide Web via computer and appropriately programmed scanners enabling access only through the use of the authorized 1-D bar code during joint/combined scanning with the unique 2-D bar code.

13. Allowing for updating the location or change in Composite Symbology makeup or amount of that specific labeled item by authorized opt-in supply chain partners using the authorized 1-D code with access to the World Wide Web when combining/recombining/decoding the 2-D code with the secure 1-D bar code.

14. Enabling the certification of pedigree of that specific item from initial labeler or manufacturer to end user (and during an optional return or recall practice) via computer and an appropriate connected or wireless scanning or optical code reader with access to the World Wide Web. Where along each step of the supply chain the unique 1-D bar code limits access to the database when not scanned in conjunction with the authorized 2-D bar code or through another authorized Internet forensic method of access (e.g., secure passwords, fingerprints, voice, eye, DNA scans etc.) PATENT 29 SECUR.P019PCT

In a sixth step 6, through a scanning program on-site, the ID or 2D or combination of both are scanned and the serial numbers stored in a master data system.

In the case of an individual item, the label is then applied to the product or package. In a case where a label to be printed for a multi-item container is used, each item label is scanned and when a preset amount is reached, the scanner sends a signal to a down stream printer for the generation of a label with the corresponding information including all of the item-specific numbers (e.g., serial numbers) included in the box, carton, pallet, container or other packing to be applied to the designated container or packaging. In a seventh step 7, the designated item, label, or package is then shipped to a supply chain partner wishing to securely verify both the receipt and of the authentic nature of the item/product. In this example, the supply chain partner has already generated or received a secure ID or 2D partner specific bar code linked in the manufacturers or other's master database including the specific-item information and optionally linked to a designated partner/user/employee/ specific scanner or CPU etc.

In an eighth step 8, the supply chain partner physically holds (or electronically combines) the partner specific ID bar code (one example shown) adjacent the 2D composite code thereby physically (or electronically) reconstructing in step 9 the complete scannable composite 1D+2D bar code (Composite Symbology code). The combined codes are shown in representation.

In step 10, the complete 1D+2D bar code is scanned with a scanner containing or linked with a computer containing a specific access mechanism (e.g., secure URL address for accessing an Internet database). In step 11, the supply chain partner's scanner's CPU identifier tag (unique to each CPU) is compared by the master data system to an authorized user's CPU tag and accepted or rejected (this is one optional additional security feature).

In an optional step 12, the supply chain partner is then prompted to log-in verifying information (via key board or additional bar code scan) and is accepted or PATENT 30 SECUR.P019PCT

rejected (an additional optional security feature). In step 13, where the supply chain partner is verified, the combined ID and composite 2D bar code information is entered (physically where a label is damaged or electronically scanned) into the secure database system and compared to a manufacturer's authentic item/product information. hi a final step 14 the data base system then renders a determination/authentication regarding the item/product and the user and may optionally generate a pedigree/approval/rejection report or electronic notice comparing the received information and the stored information and (if authorized) optionally update the database information and location of the item/product at the supply chain partner. Once the carton is bar-coded in accordance wit methods disclosed above, it is inspected upon passing by inspection module 5, which is configured with an optical means operative to evaluate the quality of the printed bar code. If the printed bar code meets the requirements it may further proceed to drying module 7 (FIG. 1) which is optionally installed for jet printing technologies. If the quality of the printed bar code is unsatisfactory, the carton is removed from a stream at module 6.

The reject module 6 is operative to remove those cartons that have not passed the inspection. The reasons for failing are numerous and include, for example, an ineligible code, a printed code does not match to the information downloaded to the printer and others. Referring to Figs. 7 A, 7B, and more illustratively depicted by flow path in Fig.

7B', an automated process executable by CPU 100 allows the operator to introduce certain input data materials such as location of bar code, type of code, data to be encoded (production code, lot No. Exp. Date, Serial No, etc., that can be processed by CPU 100 so as to provide the effective operation of inventive assembly 10. At the outset, the operator may be given an option to select the type of products to be labeled, hi particular, as shown in Figs. 7A, 7B, the product may be configured, for example, as a slug or single carton-type. Once the product configuration is selected, the operator further inputs data regarding, for example, geometrical dimensions of products to be labeled and spacing PATENT 31 SECUR.P019PCT

between successive products (see box 1000, Fig. 7B'). This information is necessary to provide a rhythmic, uninterrupted operation of carton metering module 1 of Figs. 1, and Fig. IA

Returning to Figs. 7 A, 7B, (and box 1001, Fig. 7B' to start) once the products enters carton metering roller module 1 of Fig. 1, a sensor 101 is operative to detect, for example, the leading edge of a current carton and generate a signal sent to CPU 100. Upon detecting the leading edge of the following product a further signal is generated by sensor 101. To maintain the desired spacing, a software executable by CPU 100 controls an output of a spacing motor 105 responsible for the speed of driving rollers 20. As will be noted in Fig. 7B', following the run in step 1002 the machine is stopped and steps 1003 and 1004 are conducted by the operator so as to transmit the requisite information in a secure manner to a secure data vault-type warehouse.

Integrated in control circuits of CPU 100 are numerous feed-back circuits. As shown in Figs. 7A, 7B, if the detected spacing between the successive cartons deviates from the desired or reference value, the cartons may be piled up at metering roller module 1. To prevent such an undesirable effect, s distance or gap between the successive cartons are continuously monitored by a carton gap sensor 103 generating a respective input signal which is processed by CPU 100 by comparing with a stored value. If the resultant signal falls beyond the referenced range, the speed of spacing motor 105 is adjusted as diagrammatically illustrated by a box 111. hi addition, of course, CPU 100 receives data regarding geometrical dimensions of products or cartons to be labeled so as to displace driven rollers 22 at the desired distance from driving rollers 20.

Upon leaving metering roller module 1 of Fig. 1, cartons proceed along transport path 21 by several successive stations or modules as disclosed above. The effective operation of the entire inventive assembly including the desired quality of the print, inspection and rejection of cartons is a function of how each carton is initially positioned at carton positioning module 2. PATENT 32 SECUR.P019PCT

As shown in Figs. 7A, 7B (and as earlier discussed), carton-positioning station or module 2 is operative to establish the desired orientation of the cartons along the downstream stretch of travel path 21. hi response to data received by CPU 100 and an output control signal therefrom, a servomotor 107 sets the desired speed of guide units 40 and a distance there between. A position of a carton entering module 2 is continuously monitored by a position sensor 109 (Figs. 7A, 7B) and if, for example, one of the cartons sides is not properly guided by a respective one of units 40, CPU 100 outputs a signal to servo motor 107 responsible for displacing units 40 relative to one another as well as the speed of belts 42 to correct the position of the carton as diagrammatically illustrated by a box 113.

The desired position of cartons entering print/inspection conveyor module 3 is continuously monitored, and if a need arises, a feedback signal is inputted in CPU 100 which, in turn, outputs a control signal to a position correction means 115. The correction means 115 are coupled to servomotor 107 operative to adjust the speed of belts 42 and the distance between units 40 of module 2.

Upon entering cleat conveyor 54 of module unit 3, the position of carton is detected by a sensor 117 operative to input the speed of conveyors 56, the carton's position relative adjacent cleats and the distance between cleat conveyors 54 to CPU 100. As disclosed above, cleat conveyors 54 that push a carton for positive positioning and rate control during a printing operation. This type of control is required when printing barcodes that are sensitive to bar growth in the travel direction along path 21 and the clarity of the edges on the bars. The cleat conveyor 54 can run continually for printing technologies that require the carton to be in motion when printing, or it can index and stop the carton at the printing module for printing technologies that require static printing condition.

If the detected position of a conveyor is not proper, CPU 100 outputs a first signal to correction means 112 to adjust a position of units 40 of module 2 and a second signal controlling conveyor motor 119 to adjust a position and speed of cleat conveyors 54. PATENT 33 SECUR.P019PCT

Once the position of the carton is detected and adjusted, the distance between and speed of conveyors 54 are encoded by an encoding means 121, and a signal is inputted to CPU 100 so as to further adjust the position of the printer head 123 of printer module 4. As conveyors 54 deliver a carton to printer module 4, its leading edge is detected by a sensor 125 triggering the initiation of printer module 4 to apply a bar code.

Upon applying the bar code, CPU 100 outputs a control signal to a camera of inspection module 5 in response to a signal generated by a vision trigger sensor 127. The inspection module is initiated upon adjusting the desired intensity of light source 129.

As the carton advance further along path 21, the results of the inspection are further processed by inspection module 6, where a fail/pass means 135 is operative to determine the quality of the printed bar-code. If the printed bar-code has met the criterion, the carton is further advanced along path 21 to downstream drying and packing stations or modules, as indicated by a box 141. If the applied bar code fails, once a carton with the determined failed status is detected by a reject sensor 133, CPU 100 turns on a vacuum means 133 blowing the failed carton off path 21 into a reject bean 137 and further verifies the identity of the rejected bar-code as 139.

The CPU 100 further allows the operator to interact with the inventive assembly in a convenient manner. Referring now to Fig. 7C, following an operator logging into operational control of CPU 100, the operator is presented with a screen enumerating an administrative level of the user and including supervisor, administrator and user categories.

If the operator selects the administrative screen as shown in the top part of Fig. 7C (noting the floating window over the general login entry screen) which is the default screen when an Administrator logs into Print & Verify, the screen displays the following buttons (See Fig. 7J)

User Setup

Audit Trails

Alarm Set points PATENT 34 SECUR.P019PCT

Line Setup

Job Setup

Job Data The administrator may create a new entry corresponding to a new user in accordance with a further procedure:

1. Press "User Setup"

2. Click "New" button 3. Enter username

4. Enter temporary password (user will need to reset password upon login)

5. Select "Enabled"

6. Press "Save"

A software executable by CPU 100 also allows the administrator to edit user's information in accordance with the following procedure:

1. Press "User Setup" on the "Admin" screen

2. Select user in list

3. Click "Edit" 4. Edit password

5. Select user type

6. Select "Enabled" or "Disabled". "Disabled" prevents a user from logging in.

If the operator selects the user category, a screen with a user name and password appears on the monitor. Having completed the check-in stage, the operator is presented with a main screen entitled "Run Job" shown in Fig. 7D. The "Run Job" screen offers the operator to input necessary information in order to start the inventive method.

Namely, the operators can:

Load Print Job ■ Start/Stop Print Job

Reset alarms

View Alarm Log

View Reject Log

View print statistics PATENT 35 SECUR.P019PCT

To start the printing method, the operator initially presses the "Load Job" button and further selects a print job. In response, a software executable by CPU 100 prompts the operator to input a work order, lot number, expiration, and product. All of the above will be sequentially displayed in a "Job" window 152. The software further prompts the operator to introduce line information in a window 154. The Line information may include a printer name, camera name, and a controller name.

In response to the loaded information, the software executable by CPU 100 updates a printer status indicator 158, which is color coded to indicate which printer is connected; similarly, a camera status indicator 160 will be colored to indicate a successful camera configuration and connected/disconnected status. Also, a line I/O status indicator 156 will be updated to display a successful line controller configuration.

Once the desired configuration is established, an "Alarm Log" button, and a

"View Failed" button will be enabled to prepare assembly 10 for performing the task at hand. In response to depressing a "Start Job" button, all modules are fully operational. If connected to Track and Trace online database, periodic images of cartons will be displayed on the screen.

Referring generally to Figs. 7D-7I a software executable by CPU 100 is operative to alarm the operator if certain irregularities are detected. The operator, such as an administrator, may, for example, enter a percentage (0-100%) for "Ink Level", which will trigger the Low Ink Level minor alarm. Furthermore, the operator may enter a number for "Consecutive Rejects", which will determine how many consecutive rejects which will trigger the Consecutive Bad Read major alarm. Thus, the alarm system is hierarchical including minor and major types of alarm. For minor alarms, resetting an alarm clears the "Current Alarm" window 162 and turns off, for example, a yellow stack light. For major alarms, resetting an alarm clears the "Current Alarm" window and re- enables the "Start Job" button.

When a minor alarm is raised, the following will display on the HMI:

1. The electronic stack light will be have tow colors. PATENT 36 SECUR.P019PCT

2. The minor alarm description will display in "Current Alarm" section 162. To reset a minor alarm, a "Reset" button 164 should be depressed. When a major alarm is raised, the following will display:

1. The major alarm description will display in the "Current Alarm" section 2. The "Start Job" button will be disabled

To reset a major alarm, a Supervisor- or Admin-level user must press "Reset" button 164. The user must enter their login credentials. A dialog which reads "Job Reset" will appear.

FIG. 7E illustrates an alarm log displaying all of the alarms that are generated and reset for a Print Job. To view an Alarm Log from the "Run Job" screen, a Print Job must be loaded. This enables the "Alarm Log" button which upon pressing would allow the operator to view.

The alarm log will show the following:

Timestamp ■ Alarm type

User

Additional Info

In Fig. 7F a Reject Log displays all of the grades and images for each failed carton and or image printed on carton. The grades are displayed in the data grid. When a carton is selected by pressing the row header on the data grid, the image for the carton is displayed beneath the grid. To view the Reject Log from the "Run Job" screen, a Print Job must be loaded. This enables the "View Failed Units" button, which upon pressing, allows the operator to open the Reject Log.

Fig. 7H illustrates the Line Setup screen typically accessible only by Administrator and Supervisor. The "Line Setup" screen is used to view and test the status of each of the line components:

"170 Controller" section PATENT 37 SECUR.P019PCT

o Start spacing unit o Stop spacing unit o Set "Bypass" mode on spacing unit o Display conveyor speed feedback o Display all sensor status o Set stack light conditions

"Printer" section o Display status of printer o Set printer to "Park" position o Set printer to "Print" position

"Camera" section o Display status of camera o View triggered image o View value and grade of triggered image

Fig. 71 illustrates the "Job Data" screen displays statistics about a Print Job. In particular, the screen provides, among others, allows to for the following information;

1. "Total Units Printed" displays the cartons printed for the job 2. "Total Units Rejected" displays the cartons rejected for the job

3. "Pass Rate" displays the percentage of cartons that were acceptable

4. "# Units Transmitted" displays the number of cartons whose data was uploaded to Track & Trace

5. "# Units Waiting" displays the number of cartons whose data has not been uploaded to Track & Trace

6. Provides a link to the "Reject Log" of FIG. 31.

As shown in Fig. 7J again, the administrator or supervisor is responsible for entering Job Setup executed by CPU 100 in accordance with the following operations: The procedure starts with entering Job Information Settings as illustrated in FIG. 36 and includes

1. Entering "Work Order Number"

2. Entering "Lot Number" 3. Selecting a product. PATENT 38 SECUR.P019PCT

The selection of product settings I illustrated in Fig. 7K and includes:

1. Entering a product name

2. Entering manufacturer name 3. Entering NDC for product.

Enter Packaging Settings

1. Enter "Width" for carton, in inches

2. Enter "Height" for carton, in inches

Enter Print Area Settings

1. Position Print Area on carton by dragging white print area to desired location

2. If Print Area is not pre-set by system, drag one of the four position buttons (1,2,3,4) to size the Print Area 3. Press "Save"

Enter Tag Settings

1. Select "Tag" in selection list on the left. The selected tag will highlight in yellow, showing its position in the Print Area. 2. If Tag size is not pre-set by system, drag position buttons (1,2) to size the height of the tag

3. Select "Tag Type"

4. Select "Linear Symbology" for barcode tags

5. Select "Composite Symbology" for barcode tags 6. The "Tag Layout" box displays the exact text to be encoded in the tag. Add defined data points to tag by selecting a data point in the "Tag Contents" list and pressing "Add»" button. Add any free-form text to tag using the keyboard inside the "Tag Layout" text box.

7. Press "Save" PATENT 39 SECUR.P019PCT

Enter Tag Data Settings

1. Select tag data point in selection list on the left

2. Edit the "Name" for the data point

3. Select "Data Type": ■ "UCCStaticIdentifier" indicates the data point corresponds to a static UCC

Application Identifier

"UCCSequentialSerialNumber" indicates the data point corresponds to UCC Application Identifier 21. The Print & Verify system treats this identifier as a part random/part sequential number. ■ "FreeForm" indicates that the data point does not correspond to any UCC

Application Identifier

4. Select "Identifier". This corresponds to any UCC Application Identifier

5. Enter "Value"

For NDC, must be exactly 13 digits ■ For Lot Number, can be up to 20 alphanumeric characters

For Expiration Date, must by YYMMDD

For Serial Number, must be combination of "*" for random number placeholders and "0" for sequential number placeholders.

All other UCC tag types must follow UCC Application Identifier specifications

Confirming (Approving) a Print Job

A Print Job must be confirmed before it can be run. The confirmation status is displayed on the "Job Info" tab of the "Job Setup" screen. To confirm a job:

1. Press "Confirm" on the "Job Info" tab

2. Review all Print Job metadata for accuracy

3. Confirm location and size of tags on carton

4. To go back and edit the Print Job, press "Cancel" 5. To confirm, press "Confirm"

6. Press "Ok"

7. Print database will be created and screen will return to "Job Info" tab

Press "View Alarm Log" to view the "Alarm Log" PATENT 40 SECUR.P019PCT

Referring now to Figs 8A-8H, a further embodiment of the inventive assembly 600 is configured to be used in situation that may not require a great output. The assembly 600 includes a frame 102 displaceable along a support surface and provided with a plurality of casters 102'. The frame may be height adjustable and is shown with a threaded height adjustable system 102A including a threaded shaft 102B, and a vertically adjustable mounting frame 102C, so that assembly 600 may be intentionally positioned over and relative to an existing and external product or carton/item conveyor 102D (Fig. 8G) conveying items 1OA. Mounted to frame 102 is CPU 100 for data input, output, and controllable operations, as will be discussed which has a pivotal arm 108 allowing the operator to adjust the desired position of CPU 100 during a use. The frame 102 further supports a metering roller/printer/inspection unit 104 within a protective operational shielding 104 A, which is operated similarly to the above-disclosed printing/inspection module of the first embodiment, and a conveying unit 106 operative to carry cartons along a travel path 102D beneath along printer/inspection unit 104.

Fig 8C illustrates a metering module mounted in a separate housing which in turn is enclosed within the housing 104A. The metering unit is configured to adjust a distance between an adjustable pre-metering roller sub-assembly 110 having elastomeric gripping wheels, and a fixed roller sub-assembly 112 to correspond to variously dimensioned items, such as cartons 1OA, and all within a plurality of shielding walls 104A, B, C, D, and E. If the distance adjustment is performed manually, the operator may set up the desired distance between sub-assemblies 110 and 112 by operating a manual wheel 114 while checking a sliding scale 116. It should be noted that unit 112 operates via belts and a platen (Fig. 8G- side view) so as to provide a uniform gripping surface to cartons 1OA received from the metering member 110, which employs interspaced wheels or optionally a belt system, or in combination a wheel and belt system. PATENT 41 SECUR.P019PCT

In use, an item(s) is placed on conveying unit 106, 102D and is engaged from above by the rollers of the sub-assemblies 110 and 112, respectively to touch the boxes.

The in feed is detected by a sensing means generating an input signal to CPU 100 which, in turn, sequences the operation of printing and inspecting modules, as disclosed above in reference to the first embodiment.

The inventive assembly 10 is fully automated and can be set-up and controlled by locally installed control means and/or by remote control means. As shown, for example, in FIG. IA CPU 100 is an operator-control unit mounted to frame 12 or located in the vicinity of assembly 10. The CPU 100 can, however, be coupled to a remote control center via a communication link via Internet, direct wire link, Intranet and other known communication links allowing assembly 10 to be set up from a remote location or a closely adjacent-not- attached location. hi the claims, means- or step-plus-function clauses are intended to cover the structures described or suggested herein as performing the recited function and not only structural equivalents but also equivalent structures. Thus, for example, although a nail, a screw, and a bolt may not be structural equivalents in that a nail relies on friction between a wooden part and a cylindrical surface, a screw's helical surface positively engages the wooden part, and a bolt's head and nut compress opposite sides of a wooden part, in the environment of fastening wooden parts, a nail, a screw, and a bolt may be readily understood by those skilled in the art as equivalent structures.

Having described at least one of the preferred embodiments of the present invention with reference to the accompanying drawings, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited to those precise embodiments, and that various changes, modifications, and adaptations may be effected therein by one skilled in the art without departing from the scope or spirit of the invention as defined in the appended claims. PATENT 42 SECUR.P019PCT

Claims

PATENT 43 SECUR.P019PCTWHAT IS CLAIMED IS:
1. A system, for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use; said system comprising: an item control system, comprising means for controlling a movement of said item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path; a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with said item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least said item and said system in a secure database system and for enabling an operable association of said at least one unique encoded identifier with said item and an inspection of said at least one unique identifier following said operable association; said means for controlling said movement of said item further comprising: at least a first metering system means for receiving said item from said first upstream position and for metering a release of said item along said item flow path; an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving said metered item from said first metering system means and for controllably positioning and spacing said item relative to a system determined position on said item flow path; a item control and association system means for receiving said item from said item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning said item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with said item in a manner perceivable to a user of said system; a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of said associated unique encoded identifier and for recording said determination in said secure database system, said means in said operable interaction with said item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising: PATENT 44 SECUR.P019PCT
means for authenticating said secure computerized automated system and said item control system with said secure database and for storing said unique identifier and said determination of acceptability associated with said item.
2. A system according to claim 1, wherein: said at least one unique encoded identifier represents at least a first random generated portion and at least a second sequential portion relative to an earlier associated unique encoded identifier.
3. A system according to claim 2, wherein: said secure computerized automated system includes a means for converting said associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed encodation in said secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of said system is enhanced.
4. A system, according to claim 3, further comprising: post transfer means for enabling a user of said system to scan said associated unique identifier associated with said item and for securely accessing said secure computerized automated system for conducting a comparison of said scanned and associated unique identifier with said stored unique identifier and for rendering a comparison authentication determination, whereby an item-user security is improved.
5. A system, according to claim 2, wherein: said at least one unique encoded identifier further includes encoded data relating at least one of an item product code data, a product expiration date data, an item lot number data,
6. A system, according to claim 1, wherein: said association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with said item in a manner perceivable to a user of said system, further comprises: PATENT 45 SECUR.P019PCT
a printer module system for printing said unique encoded identifier on said item along said item flow path, whereby said printed unique encoded identifier is perceivable to a visual user of said system.
7. A system, according to claim 6, wherein: said means for controlling said movement of said item further comprises: protective cover application means for applying at least one of a dryable fluid clear film and a dryable fluid clear protective film over said printed unique encoded identifier on said item at a position further downstream along said item flow path from said printer module system.
8. A system, according to claim 7, wherein: each of said dryable fluid clear film and said dryable fluid clear protective film are selected from a group if of dryable fluid clear films comprising an aqueous-based dryable fluid clear film and a non-aqueous based dryable fluid clear film.
9. A system, according to claim 7, wherein: said protective cover application means is at least one of a spray-operated application means and a roller-operated application means.
10. A system, according to claim 7, wherein: each said dryable fluid clear film and said dryable fluid clear protective film contains an organic film-forming molecule upon the drying of said film.
11. A system, according to claim 1 , wherein: at least one of said item control system and said secure computerized automated system further comprising: means for wireless transmission of said stored plurality of inputs from said secure database system to an external secure database system.
12. A method for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use; said method comprising the steps of: PATENT 46 SECUR.P019PCT
operating an item control system, said item control system comprising means for controlling a movement of said item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path; operating a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with said item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least said item and said system in a secure database system and for enabling an operable association of said at least one unique encoded identifier with said item and an inspection of said at least one unique identifier following said operable association; said step of operating said item control system further comprising the steps of: operating at least a first metering system means for receiving said item from said first upstream position and for metering a release of said item along said item flow path; operating an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving said metered item from said first metering system means and for controllably positioning and spacing said item relative to a system determined position on said item flow path; operating a item control and association system means for receiving said item from said item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning said item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with said item in a manner perceivable to a user of said system; operating a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of said associated unique encoded identifier and for recording said determination in said secure database system, said means in said operable interaction with said item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising the steps of: PATENT 47 SECUR.P019PCT
operating means for authenticating said secure computerized automated system and said item control system with said secure database and for storing said unique identifier and said determination of acceptability associated with said item.
13. A method, according to claim 12, wherein: said at least one unique encoded identifier represents at least a first random generated portion and at least a second sequential portion relative to an earlier associated unique encoded identifier.
14. A method according to claim 13, wherein: an operating of said secure computerized automated system further comprises the steps of: converting said associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed encodation in said secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of said system is enhanced.
15. An apparatus, for securely generating and storing a unique identifier and for applying the same to an item as a label during a use; said system comprising: a control system, comprising means for controlling a movement of said item from a first upstream position to a final downstream position along an item flow path; a secure computerized automated system, comprising means in operable interaction with said control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs regarding at least said item and said system in a secure database system and for enabling an operable association of said at least one unique encoded identifier with said item and an inspection of said at least one unique identifier following said operable association; said means for controlling said movement of said item along said flow path, further comprising: at least a first metering roller system means for receiving said item from said first upstream position and for metering a release of said item along said item flow path; PATENT 48 SECUR.P019PCT
an item positioning and spacing system means for receiving said metered item from said first metering roller system means and for controllably positioning and spacing said item relative to a system determined position on said item flow path; a item control and association system means for receiving said item from said item positioning and spacing system means and for positioning said item relative to an association module means for associating at least one unique encoded identifier with said item in a manner perceivable to a user of said system; a quality control system means for determining an acceptability of said associated unique encoded identifier and for recording said determination in said secure database system, said means in said operable interaction with said item control system for receiving and for storing a plurality of inputs in a secure database system further comprising: means for authenticating said secure computerized automated system and said item control system with said secure database and for storing said unique identifier and said determination of acceptability associated with said item.
16. An apparatus, system according to claim 15, wherein: said secure computerized automated system includes a means for converting said associated unique encoded identifier into a non-convertible hashed encodation in said secure database system and for storing the same, whereby a security of said system is enhanced.
17. An apparatus, according to claim 15, wherein: said at least a first metering roller system means for receiving said item from said first upstream position and for metering a release of said item along said item flow path at a pre-determined interval; and said at least first metering roller system further comprises at least opposing roller members for enabling both a metering contact with said item and a pass-through driven contact with said item and PATENT 49 SECUR.P019PCT
vertical adjustment means for adjusting a position of said opposing roller members relative to said item and said flow path, whereby said apparatus is readily adjustable to a variety of differently sized items.
18. An apparatus, according to claim 17, wherein: said item positioning and spacing system means for receiving said metered item from said first metering roller system means and for controllably positioning and spacing said item relative to a system determined position on said item flow path, further comprises; first and second opposing belt systems defining a gap there between for contacting opposing sides of said item and receiving said item for positioning and spacing relative to a status of said item control and association system means; gap adjustable means for adjusting said gap to enable a contact of said item metered from said at least first metering roller system; computer controlled means for regulating an transfer speed of said opposing first and second belt systems contacting said item, whereby said item positioning and spacing means enables a controlled positioning and spacing of said item relative to said status of said item control and association system means.
19. An apparatus, according to claim 15, wherein: said item control and association system means includes third and forth co-planar belts having contacting-item surfaces perpendicular to said first and second opposing belt systems in said item positioning and spacing system means; means for adjusting a position of said third and forth co-planar belts so as to reach an outer edge location of respective opposing sides of said item; whereby said co-planar belts enable a positioning of a print-ready surface of said item respective to said association module means for associating said unique encoded identifier on said item.
20. An apparatus, according to claim 19, wherein: PATENT 50 SECUR.P019PCT
said item control and association system means further comprises a rejected quality removal system for removing an item having an associated unique identifier that is not acceptable according said quality control system means; and said rejected quality removal system further includes a rejected-item chute member for receiving rejected items and transferring the same away from said item flow path to minimize a risk if interference therewith.
PCT/US2007/081324 2006-10-12 2007-10-12 Method for improving security and enhancing information storage, the system and the apparatus for operating the method WO2008046088A2 (en)

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US20040136237A1 (en) * 1995-02-27 2004-07-15 Btg International Inc. Memory apparatus including programable non-volatile multi-bit memory cell, and apparatus and method for demarcating memory states of the cell
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US8086546B2 (en) * 2004-12-17 2011-12-27 Amazon Technologies, Inc. Method and system for anticipatory package shipping

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US20040136237A1 (en) * 1995-02-27 2004-07-15 Btg International Inc. Memory apparatus including programable non-volatile multi-bit memory cell, and apparatus and method for demarcating memory states of the cell
US7177444B2 (en) * 1999-12-08 2007-02-13 Federal Express Corporation Method and apparatus for reading and decoding information
US20010032881A1 (en) * 2000-02-02 2001-10-25 Wells Thomas R. In-line verification, reporting and tracking apparatus and method for mail pieces

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