Bates Numbering

Most of my fellow readers spend many hours each day looking at Bates numbered documents, the individual identifying number found on each document turned over in discovery as part of a legal proceeding.

You might wonder where the term Bates number comes from. In fact, it is named after the inventor of the Bates stamp, Edwin G. Bates, who patented theĀ Bates Automatic Numbering-Machine in 1891 and then again in 1901. The patent, titled Consecutive-Numbering Machine, was assigned to the Bates Manufacturing Company of New York City.

The Bates stamp was quite literally an ink stamp that advanced numbers after each depression of the stamp. The numbering ranged from 0000 to 9999. Higher-end models allowed for stamping in duplicate or triplicate. Eventually, the Bates stamp was expanded to seven digits in order to allow for larger legal productions.

Eventually, the Bates stamp was sold to the General Binding Corporation (GBC) in 1993. Today, however, most Bates stamping is done via PDF software.


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