Surveillance Tech Company Sues US Government For Patent Infringement

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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