How Does A Manufacturer Protect Themselves Against Possible Patent Infringement / Avigilon?

With the news of Avigilon purchasing millions of dollars worth of patents this year, the question that comes to mind is how do manufacturers prepare to protect themselves against possible Avigilon patent disputes? When reviewing many of the patents they have purchased, the patents are very generalized with regards to their technology. Many patents give a very broad concept and there are multiple patents that seem to be very similar to each other.

Just this last year, Mobotix was successful in their patent dispute against Texas based E-Watch Corporation. They were able to get four patents declared un-patentable. However, is this the only way competitor's will be able to protect themselves against possible Avigilon threats?

There are so many companies developing products that provide similar technology. How is everybody not being sued?

Axis, Mobotix, etc.. all are now claiming they have on-board analytics. As a manufacturer, how are they able to determine if they are infringing on a patent? There are literally hundreds of patents involving IP, surveillance networking, video analytics, etc.

Does a manufacturer simply roll the dice and develop their software in hopes that they do not step on anyone's patents? Or, do they immediately reach out to Avigilon and request permission to utilize the patents through royalties? Then, what is to say there won't be additional companies other than Avigilon stating they are also using technology in patents they own?


Just an add-on question:

If someone else starts paying royalty to the patent holder does that establish a precedent for use in future litigation against others?

Yes, in the sense that the patent holder will use this as social proof (i.e., "Well, Sony, Bosch and Pelco have settled / say our patents are good, you should too...")

On the other hand, royalties do not preclude others from trying to get a patent invalidated.

Most companies that settle are typically of the opinion that the patents being 'enforced' are invalid but that it is cheaper to settle than go to court to the very end.

We need someone stubborn like Mobotix to lead the charge!

Excellent questions / topic.

"How is everybody not being sued?"

Because most manufacturers do not use patents offensively. Some use them for validation ("hey investor, look we have intellectual property"), others use them for defensive purpose (i.e., to stop others from suing them) but rarely does a going concern manufacturer try to sue another (there are, of course, some big name exceptions but statistically it is not common).

"Do they immediately reach out to Avigilon and request permission to utilize the patents through royalties?"

It depends on one's risk profile. Many would prefer to ignore it and, if they ever get approached, just claim ignorance ("Hey we had no idea you had a patent on that"). If you do approach them, presumably, they are going to find reasons to charge you :) So it's like asking to hand Avigilon money...

"Mobotix was successful in their patent dispute against Texas based E-Watch Corporation. They were able to get four patents declared un-patentable. However, is this the only way competitor's will be able to protect themselves against possible Avigilon threats?"

From what I've seen, invalidation is the very best way.

The challenge with Avigilon is that they have so many patents. So it's a little like killing off a zombie. If the whole horde is coming at you, even if you kill a few, there will still be others marching forward at you...

From what I've seen, invalidation is the very best way.

Though it's the most expensive legal theory to defend with, since the patent discovery and prior art research to make the case that a patent should never have been granted is daunting. Most cases won by the defense rely on showing instead non-infringement, a much easier task. Though of course this still leaves other defendants on the hook.

In these cases however, since the patents are so broad there may be no other way.

If you think there is going to be a patent problem, first thing I would think is make sure your patents or licensing is in order. Second, you don’t need to go looking for a fight, but be prepared for one. Third, when trouble comes, you better be ready to fight or watch your customer and dealer base erode away if you do nothing. If you don't actively assure your end users and dealers you stand behind your products and offer to support them in getting suits dismissed or redirected to where they belong, you, to handle them, then those end users will assume whoever is suing them is right based on your silence and they'll never buy your products again. And that’s if they don’t turn around and sue you for selling them an infringing product.

And if you're not willing to band together with other manufacturers in defense, then you'll get picked off one by one. Whoever settles with the patent troll has just effectively given them money to harass your customers and drive them to the manufacturers who settled. We’ve all speculated on if the industry will start consolidating and how, this is one way it can happen. The big boys say “I can spend a few million acquiring these smaller companies, or a few million in marketing and advertising to fight them, or I can give this troll and few thousand to sow distrust and resentment in my competitors customers and reap the rewards when those customers come to me because I just put out this news letter that we don’t have patent issues.

I think one part of your assessment is somewhat too much:

"Third, when trouble comes, you better be ready to fight or watch your customer and dealer base erode away if you do nothing."

The OV lawsuits had negligible impact on the customers of Bosch, Samsung, Sony or Pelco who were all sued.

Now, if Avigilon decided to broadly sue end users, say of strong rival integrators, then, yes that could cause some significant issues. But who knows if they will go that far.

I interned in product engineering at a big (multinational) plumbing fixture manufacturer while I was in college. While there, I saw multiple occasions where a patented feature was being copied by another manufacturer, and I also saw the basic way a 'new product' or idea was being researched against prior filings.

In every case, lawyers determined how hard/soft the enforceability of a patent would be. Whether it was potentially challenging someone else's patent or chasing someone else down for infringement, it always essentially came down to money.

I don't think there is a general answer. I think the answer changes based on who you are, and the potential impact to the patent holders. Granted, Avigilon has deep pockets here, but even that is finite and my hunch is strategic competitors have most to be worried about.

"The OV lawsuits had negligible impact on the customers of Bosch, Samsung, Sony or Pelco who were all sued."

Maybe it's a matter of scale. What happened in those case? Did the those manufacturers do nothing and turn a deaf ear, or did they react to handle OV? Where they larger customers? I could see if maybe a manufacturer doesn't want to spend the time and money on a little customer with only 50 cameras or less, but in this case...

Anyone Know Hawk Technology Systems Patent Infringement Lawsuits? Or About These Patent Trolls?

... where supposedly Aimetis turned a deaf ear to a 500+ camera install at a client like Hyatt which could have far reaching consequences... do they just not take the long view?

Hawk sued end users.

OV never sued end users.

That's the big difference. When it's just manufacturer vs manufacturer it is generally not a big concern to users or integrators.

That said, yes, if Avigilon decides to sue end users, that would have a big impact but I am not sure even Avigilon wants to risk the fallout from such a tactic.

Do I detect a slight softening in your position from last week?

Avigilon will absolutely threaten to sue manufacturers and end users. From their perspective, surely there will be nothing wrong with that.

Or are you saying that they will threaten but not actually follow thru in the end?

Threatening generates a lot less ill will than actually filing a suit.