Surveillance Tech Company Sues US Government For Patent Infringement

from the cornering-the-intrusion-market dept

Here's an interesting angle for attacking the surveillance state. Use patents.

[A] small business that designs, installs and services digital video surveillance systems, 3rd Eye Surveillance, [has] sued the United States federal government for alleged patent infringement. The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, seeking damages exceeding $1 billion for unlawful use of the company’s three video and image surveillance system patents – U.S. Patent Nos. 6,778,085, 6,798,344, and 7,323,980. The surveillance system patents are owned by Discovery Patents, LLC of Baltimore Maryland, who is also a Plaintiff in the case, and exclusively licensed by 3rd Eye Surveillance.
Despite its Plano, Texas headquarters, 3rd Eye Surveillance appears to actually sell goods and services, rather than just litigate from an empty office bearing nothing more than the company name plate. Patent holder James Otis Faulkner pushed these patents through in the wake of the 9/11 attacks in order to give citizens and law enforcement better, faster connections to real-time surveillance footage.

In addition to contract work and direct sales, 3rd Eye also makes a bit of money litigating.
This trio of patents, which have been successfully used against more than 10 municipalities and private businesses, allows for the provision of real-time surveillance video, audio recognition, facial recognition and infrared images to emergency responders and defense agencies.
3rd Eye is claiming the US government's wide-ranging "exploitation" of its unlicensed patents is worth $1 billion. The suit names several agencies directly, while holding the option to name others as needed.
The Defendant is the United States of America, acting through its various agencies, including by way of example, and not limitation, the Department of Justice, the Department Of Homeland Security, USSTRATCOM, the Department of Defense, the United States Customs and Border Protection, the United States Army, the United States Navy, and the Defense Logistics Agency.
Basically, any agency deploying a surveillance system that can be monitored and/or utilizing voice/facial recognition software is a potential target. $1 billion seems to be the floor for damages. In addition to the government agencies named, the suit also alleges indirect infringement by private corporations through their contracts with the government. The list includes government contracting heavyweights Motorola and Booz Allen Hamilton, along with a few others -- again, just "by example" and "not limited" to those listed in the lawsuit.

Of course, this won't be shutting down any existing government surveillance systems. It may result in a payout for 3rd Eye, but the suit doesn't seek an injunction halting the use of the allegedly infringing tech while the court sorts it out. Possibly this is due to the patent owner's respect for a healthy surveillance state or, more likely, that an injunction encompassing multiple government agencies would never be granted, especially when it affects "public interest" hotspots like counterterrorism and law enforcement.

The government hasn't filed a response at this point, so the patents it claims to use in its surveillance gear have yet to be discussed. If this suit survives a motion for dismissal or isn't immediately settled, things could get interesting if the government is forced to discuss the specifics of its surveillance tech. Of course, "interesting" may be in theory only. If the discussion runs deep enough or lasts long enough, this lawsuit will soon be littered with sealed documents, ex parte presentations to the presiding judge and black ink all over the place.

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Filed Under: patents, surveillance
Companies: 3rd eye surveillance


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 4:37am

    This is comedy gold! :D At the very least the U.S. justice system allows for it. :)

    NSA, FBI, CIA spy on people, get sued by third party for stealing the ideas used to make the tools to spy on people.

    If this becomes public enough, expect even more nasty s**t to float to the surface (heavily redacted), legally this time.

    Also expect your average citizen to just sigh and go back to work as usual.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Michael, 9 Jun 2015 @ 4:45am

    Great. The DOJ spies on all of us and will then use our money to pay off a patent troll shaking them down for doing so.

    The land of the free...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    MadAsASnake (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 5:14am

    The Discovery process could be quite revealing...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 5:28am

    Is this an example of patent infringement or an obvious patent being granted?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Espryon (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 5:44am

    Hilarious, the government getting sued by an outside company for breaching patents and 'breaking the law', gee I wonder when that last happened. That place better get ready for the black helicopters, I hear them a coming. Get ready for FOIA releases with entire pages blacked out and no audio during the trial Lul.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Josh (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 6:00am

    Taxes

    I'm sure the IRS is rooting for this guy to win. How much of that money will they be getting?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 9:53am

      Re: Taxes

      Well however you look at it I am sure the government loves the fact that they only have to pay a smaller percentage of the settlement amount.

      $settlement_amount - $taxes_on_settlement = $governemt_actual_cost

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    TheResidentSkeptic (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 6:04am

    Shouldn't the target

    be the manufacturer of the systems they are installing and not the "user" of the system?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 6:15am

    I would not be surprised if they don't find themselves arrested for supporting terrorism and end up in a secret court with secret evidence they are not allowed to see.

    The supporting terrorism charge would be because they are hindering the states ability to function by suing them.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 7:02am

      Re:

      They won't bother. The DOJ will just ask the judge to dismiss the case because the government can't defend itself without revealing SECRETS. The judge will oblige.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        nasch (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 12:28pm

        Re: Re:

        The DOJ will just ask the judge to dismiss the case because the government can't defend itself without revealing SECRETS. The judge will oblige.

        That's what I would expect to happen. It seems to me like that should result in an automatic win for the other side, but that isn't how it works.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 6:57am

    Merely FYI, this is a claim solely for money damages filed against the USG in the Court of Federal Claims under the provisions of 28 USC 1498, a provision of law having as its underlying principle the government's constitutional obligation to pay reasonable and entire compensation fot the taking of private property. The reason injunctive relief is not being sought is because injunctive relief is nothing that the court has the power to grant. Its remedial powers are limited to solely money damages.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    avideogameplayer, 9 Jun 2015 @ 7:49am

    I wouldn't be surprised if the USPO just happens to invalidate his patents a day before trial...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 8:29am

    Can't wait for TPP to be ratified so every foreign company can sue the US for violating their IP. What a world, what a world.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 8:58am

    I thought the government had free use of all patents.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    JoeCool (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 11:03am

    Nothing will come of this

    If the government is infringing the patents and think they're worth anything, they'll simply use public domain to take them rather than give this guy a pay-out.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      nasch (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 12:29pm

      Re: Nothing will come of this

      If the government is infringing the patents and think they're worth anything, they'll simply use public domain to take them rather than give this guy a pay-out.

      You mean eminent domain?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John Fenderson (profile), 9 Jun 2015 @ 1:10pm

      Re: Nothing will come of this

      They don't have to. The government can, in most cases, simply use the patent without paying. From http://www.nationaldefensemagazine.org/archive/2008/June/Pages/Ethics2293.aspx

      Federal contractors, however, can use patent rights owned by others without obtaining a license or paying royalties. By statute, the military and other government agencies have the right to use any patented invention to further valid government missions, and this right may be extended to government contractors.

      The result is that the unlicensed use of patented inventions by federal contractors may not be illegal, or wrongful, depending on the usage.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 9 Jun 2015 @ 1:29pm

        Re: Re: Nothing will come of this

        In the event a patent is infringed by or for the USG and with its authorization and consent, a patent holder's recourse is generally a claim filed in the Federal Court of Claims pursuant to 28 USC 1498 for reasonable and entire compensation, i.e., money damages.

        I say "generally" because there are several factual scenarios where a contractor/subcontractor may incur iability without the legal ability to shift all responsibility to the USG.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2015 @ 4:32am

        Re: Re: Nothing will come of this

        Government to patent holders:
        "Sucks to be you"

        So in the age of "Because terrorism" and "Won't somebody think of the children" the government can use any and all patents it wants to.
        Does this include drug patents? So a federal sub-contractor can cook up anything because terrorism. Oh all those free cancer/truth drugs.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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