How To Use a Bates Numbering Machine

The Bates numbering machine has evolved from the original Bates numbering stamp that was originally patented by Edwin G. Bates. Because the system that the Bates numbering stamp established was the most efficient way of marking and identifying important legal documents, the numbers and unique identifiers that were used on each page of a legal document were called Bates numbers (even if a different automatic numbering machine brand was used to number them).

A numbering stamp or labels machine can be automatic or electronic. There are several types of numbering machines and the Bates numbering machine is only one of them. With the dawning of the Internet, numbering software has also been developed, lessening the need for printing those important legal documents that needs a stamp on each page.

Bates numbering organizes legal documents, methodically labeling and identifying each page with unique identifiers. This system or method is largely used by legal, medical and business institutions for their important legal documents. The process of Bates numbering can provide identification of images and protect its copyright.

The Bates numbering machine works in this process:

  1. The numbering machine stamp presses down on a page of the document.
  2. A unique Bates number is stamped on the page.
  3. When the stamp presses down again, the next consecutive or sequential Bates number is stamped on the next page of the document.

When a numbering machine stamps, the pattern that it follows is called “movement.” A numbering machine may have a range of 1 to 10 movements. These are selected by the operator. The usual movement is the “consecutive movement” where the machine stamps a number and then goes on to stamp the next consecutive number.

However there are also other movements to choose from. You can choose a “repeat movement” which stamps the same number on the next page and you could also choose the “duplicate movement” which stamps the same number twice before going to the next consecutive number. There are some numbering machines that can do 20 movements before advancing to the next consecutive number.

A Bates numbering machine, whether mechanical or electronic is self-inking. Those numbering machines that need to place Bates numbers in documents to be used for litigation are usually equipped with alphabet wheels that incorporate alphabets in the unique sequence. Numbering machines with alphabet wheels may have 10 to 12 alphanumeric characters per wheel (although there are electronic numbering machines and also numbering software that can provide the full alphabet and alphanumeric characters).

In recent years however, there have been talks about doing away with stamping Bates numbers on each individual page of documents to be used in litigation. Although it is stated in “The Manual for Complex Litigation” that every page of every document is Bates-stamped in a consecutive movement, this posed a problem for those documents that had millions of data, which could not be understood by just referring to one page or two.

The Bates numbering machine has been in use since the late 1800s and at present, no other system has been developed that can replace this efficient method. But with the world continually developing, another method that can replace Bates numbering will surely be advanced in the future.


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