Avigilon Video Analytics Patents - What Should A Manufacturer Do?

I have probably read all posts on Avigilon & VA Patents here however it is not clear whether Avigilon has already approached any company with their patent portfolio. Have they? If yes then does somebody have any details?

What strategy do you have for this possible risk? Taking into account that their (OV) patents cover such basic things as a tripwire it looks pretty bad for the industry. Of course, big guys have their own war chests and resources to fight back but what can do small & medium players to protect their customers?

Personally I did not have even one discussion this year without questions regarding possible patent issues on video analytics. Many needs VA but nobody wants to have additional head ache with lawsuits. We have a good team for VA that have been working on it since the early 2000. Our product was good enough to be licensed by for example one more-or-less known VMS vendor. And we have interesting ideas for the future development. Meanwhile it does not look wise to invest in filing patents on our level (expensive and will be way too expensive to use them for protection) and at the same time now it is questionable whether it makes sense to continue development in this area when it became tough (it was tough but now it became much tougher) to sell VA and we have other more prospect products.


Hmm.
You are going into a very dangerous area here.
I can only guess that you are probably already in breach of several patents.
I don't Avigilon has done so but it has the means of going after anyone in the market.
For mid to small sized companies who does have any permanent legal department this could mean a very big head ache.

Since patents are a very complicated matter I would suggest contacting a patent adviser.
I don't think anyone on IPVM can give you any help with this matter as patents (as you already mentioned) are costly and sometimes do more harm than good.

Itamar

Of course, I have met with IP lawyers (found that I am not insane enough to follow this way).
I am not trying to find the exact solution here but I will be glad to hear thoughts of other manufacturers on this issue.

"Avigilon has already approached any company with their patent portfolio. Have they? If yes then does somebody have any details?"

Avigilon has already publicly said they are reaching out to some companies. Their explanation was that they were going to start with a limited number of companies and then expand. I don't have any details about what they are asking for from 'targets' but they have said they plan to look more broadly beyond the OV patents and back towards original licensees that may not be covered for other patents.

"Of course, big guys have their own war chests and resources to fight back but what can do small & medium players to protect their customers?"

Ironically, the big guys were the ones who mostly folded when OV sued a few years ago. For example, Bosch settled, Pelco settled, Sony settled, etc.

"Meanwhile it does not look wise to invest in filing patents on our level"

New patents might be useful to you in the future, generally, but may not have any impact on Avigilon's position unless you somehow want to try to negotiate cross licensing of your patents / applications with theirs.

"it is questionable whether it makes sense to continue development in this area when it became tough"

My gut feel is the opposite. As a smaller company (presumably a specialist), if your analytics work well, you should be able to do well. At worse, Avigilon will get a cut of your revenue but that will not make or break you. This is much more of an issue for large companies that want to include analytics for free on low cost cameras.

"You are going into a very dangerous area here."

Disagree. Worse thing that happens is that Avigilon demands you pay them a few dollars per channel (probably) and, at your presumably smaller scale, it will not really make a difference.

If I was in your shoes, I'd probably just approach Avigilon, see if a reasonable deal can be signed, and then use that as tool to calm customers, partners, investors, etc.

Note: my advice to large companies would be completely different, as having Avigilon hold key patents over you is much more of a risk there.

Thank you for your comments John.

Contacting Avigilon sounds reasonable and I do consider it. However, it is a one-way road and I have doubts about it. Sure, our small partners (small SI) will be fully satisfied if we have an agreement with the well-known patents' holder. At the same time, companies that compete in a some way with Avigilon have different opinion. I asked directly some of my contacts about it: whether we needed to make a deal with Avigilon or not. Most answers were negative for our future cooperation. Also, in case of an option to go under the wing of a big company (this year "consolidation" and "complete solution" are popular words), the deal with Avigilon is also a negative thing.

Maybe it is not correct because it is based on a limited number of discussions.

"At the same time, companies that compete in a some way with Avigilon have different opinion. I asked directly some of my contacts about it: whether we needed to make a deal with Avigilon or not. Most answers were negative for our future cooperation."

What??? So if you have a patent license agreement with Avigilon, they will not work with you? Really? I doubt that. Sony, Bosch, Pelco, Tyco, Hikvision and a host of other companies already have OV agreements, which are now owned by Avigilon.

Listen if those companies really are firmly committed against Avigilon, tell them to do the whole industry a favor and invalidate the patents. Otherwise, chastising a small company is strange and unfair.

I did not mean the Tire One companies :) and companies in your list do not need our products. They are more interested now in VA patents other than products.

I do not know the precise reasons and can just assume that there is no trust that Avigilon will be consistent and that it will not use this connection as a leverage.

I understand that many manufacturers do not trust Avigilon. Certainly, based on their track record of interacting with their peers, it is understandable.

I just do not see why they would hold it against you if you got a license. But if that is their stance, it is their stance.

I asked directly some of my contacts about it: whether we needed to make a deal with Avigilon or not. Most answers were negative for our future cooperation...

You could always ask them to file suit as a formality, then settle silently. Who could object?