Axis and Arecont Legal Conflict Over Multi-Imager Cameras

By: Brian Karas, Published on Aug 17, 2017

Arecont threatened Axis.

Axis has responded by moving to invalidate an Arecont patent.

It is an important contest. Multi-imagers are Arecont's most important product offering, the key segment holding Arecont up in the race to the bottom. And multi-imagers are now a key growth market for Axis.

In this note, we examine Arecont's patent, Axis' response and the chances of Arecont successfully defending their patent.

******* ********** ****.

**** *** ********* ** ****** ** invalidate ** ******* ******.

** ** ** ********* contest. *****-******* *** *******'* most ********* ******* ********, *** key ******* ******* ******* up ** *** **** to *** ******. *** multi-imagers *** *** * key ****** ****** *** Axis.

** **** ****, ** ******* Arecont's ******, ****' ******** and *** ******* ** Arecont ************ ********* ***** patent.

[***************]

Arecont ******

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Arecont ************ ***********

***** ****** ***** *** patent *** ********, ******* issued ** ********, ******** Axis *** ********** ** this ****** [**** ** longer *********], *** *********** **** infringement ***** **** ** a ******** ** ****' new***** *****-****** ******:

 

**** ********

**** ******** **** *** following ********* ** ******** to *******'* ******:

** *** **** ** Axis' ********* **** *** of *** ***********, ******* Vision, ** ******* *** information ** **** ** our ********* ******** **** the **** ***** ***** infringe ** * ******* US ******. **** ***** these *********** ****** *** falsely **** *** *** unfounded ******* ** ****’ customers. **** ****** ****** our ********* ****** ***** be ** ***** **** our ******** ** *** IP ***** ** *****. Axis ******** ****** ************ Property (**) *** *** going ** ***** ******* in ***** ******* ****** to **** **** ** continue ** ** **. At *** **** **** we ******* *** *********** to ***** ******* *** IP. **** ******** **** Canon ********** *** ****** of *** ** *** largest ****** ********** ** the *****.

*** ******* ** *** Axis/Canon ****** ********* ***** be *********** ** * statement ** *******, ** any ****** ** *** security ********, **** ****** claims ******* *****, ** its ************, *** ****** to ** ********** ********. Related, ***** **** ********.

*************, ***** ** * shortage ** **** ***** cameras ** ** ******* in ******* ******* ******** ******. *******, **** **** that **** ** ** due ** ***** ******* demand, *** *** ***** issue.

Axis ***** ** ********** *******'* ******

** * **** **** filing,**** *** ***** ** have *******'* ****** ***********, ******* ** "*******". A ******* ** ***** position ******:

********* ** **** ************** AB, * ****** ****** ordinary ***** ** *** art — ******* ** someone **** ** ***** an *********’* ****** ** Mechanical *********** ** ** equivalent *****, ** **** as *** ***** ** practical ********** ** ** industry ******** ** ********* housings ** ******** — would **** *** ****** housings ********* ** ********** Arecont ****** ***’* *.*. patent **. *,***,**********. [******** ****]

******* ******** ********** ****' invalidation ******* ***** ** ********** ** prior ***, *********** ******* that *** ******** ****** Arecont ********* *** ******* invented ****** ******* **** their ******. **** ** these ***** *** ********** date ***** ** *******'* founding ** ****.

Arecont ********

******* *** *** ******* any ****** ****** **** has **** ****** ******** and ******: "** ** not ******* ** ******* like ****.  **** ** have ********* ** ***, we **** ***** * press *******."

Compared ** *****/******** ****

**** ******* ** ********** Arecont's ******* ** * much ******** ******** **** the*****/******** *******, ************ **** ***** do *** ****** ** be *** ****** ************ cases ******* ******* **** by *******, ****** * statement **** ******* ** 'exploring' **** *****. ****, particularly *** *****, *********** has *** ******* ** use ***** ***** ********* to ****** * ***** blow ** ******* ** getting **** ****** ***********.

Odds ** ********** ************

**% ** ************ ******** ***** were ********** ** ************ all ****** ** *** disputed *******, *** ******* 12% *** **** ** the ****** ****** *********** in **** ********* ** ** *********** ** ****** ************ proceedings ** * ***** firm. ** * ******* trend, **** ***** ***** Axis, *******, **** ****** analyze *** ******** ** patents.

Invalidation ****** ** *******

************ ***** ******** **** competitors ** ***** ******* multi-imagers, ********** *** ********** for ******* ** **** key ***** *** ****. Over *** *****, ** have ***** **** ************* express ******** ***** *******'* patent ********* ** **** space. ****, ***** ******* certainly ***** **** **** patents, ****** * ****** invalidated ***** **** **** appear **** ** ********** in *** ****** **** where **** ****** ** try *** ******* ***** patents.

Arecont ** ********* ********

******* ** ** * difficult ******** ** ****** years ** **** ************* have ***** ******** ***** imager *******, *******'* ***** differentiator. ** ******** ***** they **** * ****** position ** **** ******, with ****** *********** ***********. ***, **** face ****** *********** **** ************* with ******* ******* ******* portfolios ** ***-**-*** *********, creating ********** *** *******. Attempting ** ******** *********** through ****** *********** ** a ***** ********, ** even ** **** ***, they *** ****** ** bullies ** ** * company ***** ******** ** not ******* ** * technical ** ******* *****, relying ******* ** ********** to **** ********.

Vote / ****

Comments (37)

Why not just deny use of a IP camera patent to Arecont? Didn't Axis invent IP cameras? 

Axis was certainly very early in the IP camera game, but they do not hold a patent on "IP cameras".  If they had tried to patent something so broad they would have most likely been denied, based on prior applications of network video streaming from a camera. An early example the Coffee Pot Cam from 1991, which added live streaming to a browser in 1993, still several years before Axis released their own cameras.

 

And I was just having lunch with Axis earlier this month and asked them point blank, "What took you so long to come out with multi-imager cameras? Was it a patent thing?" They said no, but to their credit they gave it as humble reason, that they just hadn't been listening to customers.

But who knows. Will be interesting how it turns out.

I find it incredible one can say "let's put another identical sensor in the same housing!" and that is worthy of a patent on it's own. It seems to me the system today has little to do with the reason it was originally conceived.

It's like someone patenting a toaster, and someone else adding two more slots and calling it something new. What ingenuity...

To be fair, Arecont's patent in this case applies more to HOW those additional sensors are able to arranged by the user within the housing, not just the concept of having more than 1 image sensor in a housing.

I have no dog in this fight, but I suppose this does help explain why Axis is currently stating that new P3707-PE orders are 15+ weeks out for delivery right now.

Axis claims that is not the case. In their favor, they ARE shipping P3707's, but with long-lead times. Also, Arecont has not filed any formal cases against Axis, so it would be unlikely that Axis would be holding up P3707's simply because Arecont made a vague statement about 'evaluating next steps'.

 

They can claim whatever they want and they may be shipping some now, but I have a letter directly from Axis stating that they are 15 weeks out on shipping new orders for P3707's. It may be nothing but an unfortunate coincidence, but that's a pretty impressive coincidence if so.

I disagree, I do not think Axis seeking to have Arecont's patent invalidated explains P3707 lead times. You could also argue that the P3707 has become more popular than Axis anticipated (thus, the lead times), and they are making this move to ensure that Arecont can not hold up production in the future.

If Axis halted shipments, or stopped taking new orders for P3707's, then I would agree that the coincidence factor is very high and there may be more to the story.

Axis took a poorly forecasted order from Iverify for hundreds of the P3707 for Best Buy, which when coupled with many other smaller orders, crippled their supply.  

From what i have heard the issue of shipment delays is due to some major retailers buying so many of these cameras for large projects at once thus keeping the supply low for all others.

Disagree or find unhelpful this is a fact. Think about it the popularity of this camera being for cameras, one license and one cable makes it a great choice. If you have a large retailer that wants say a 1000 cameras for stores and demands the supplier ship all 1000 at once this is what happens instead of supplying as the projects start.

Shannon -

Don't take those votes to heart, an Arecont employee went through this discussion and cast the majority of the disagree/unhelpful votes on comments (including my comments defending Arecont).

Members are free to vote as they please, and we encourage voting overall. We also encourage people to ignore single Disagree or Unhelpful votes, they are rarely representative of broader opinion on a given comment.

As a large enterprise end user, I can say that we have initiated more service calls on Arecont A8185DN's than any other camera we have on our system.

I have had several Axis Q3709's and Q6000's installed since 2016 and have never had one issue with them. As a result, I plan to replace eight A8185DN's with Axis cameras in the next year.

I do hope the Arecont patent is invalidated to open up more competition for these style of cameras.

 

This gem pre-dates 2000, and features a gimbal fastened to a slot with a screw, just like good 'ol Arecont.  May not be identical, but the premise is the same, and frankly, it's equally as ugly.  As such, any good firm should have no issue defending the Axis P3707, Hanwha PNM-9080VQ, Avigilon H4-MH, or the like.

Interesting! Also the Mobotix D10 was around as well after this I think in 2006? dual Lens :)

I don't think the D10 had sensors that could be moved around on a structure, which like Brian said, the patent relates more to how the sensors are moved than just having multiple sensors. But definitely just having multiple sensors in one housing is not enough for a patent, I would think.

You can move the sensors around and tighten using a central Allen key

Sounds like the last desperate roll of the dice by Arecont to me...

C/O

'Hey, why don't we develop some great new camera tech to stay in business?'

 

F/O

'Whats the point? When we can milk our competitors for a couple of bucks and retire on the proceeds?'

This makes me think about the first:

- PTZ integrated camera.

- PTZ dome.

- Fixed integrated camera (dome, bullet).

 

There must be a patent for that... Do you know who holds them?

Those are all so old that any patents that did exist would have expired by now if you are truly talking about firsts in those categories.

I will no longer sell Arecont cameras, and I'm not sure why anyone would.  That said, when you can't sell....  SUE!

Good luck to Arecont, I don't really believe they will be around much longer.  Good luck to those still selling their products.

I am ambivalent as to who loses here. However, there seems to be no reason to apply for a patent if one does not plan to defend it. Based on the statistics offered in the article on patent invalidation, it looks like the patent office is pretty loose with issuing them. My name is on 2 patents from another life in another field. Money wasted as no one bothered to infringe! LOL. 

However, there seems to be no reason to apply for a patent if one does not plan to defend it.

Patents can be very valuable when attempting to raise money, investors like to see that you have something unique enough to be patented, particularly if those patents can be used as "blocking patents" to prevent competitors from entering the same space easily.

Sometimes too patents can be used defensively. A company comes to you and claims you infringe their patents, and owe them $X in royalties. You can potentially claim that company infringes patents you hold, and they owe you $Y in royalties. The result being some form of settlement along the lines of "let's call it even". Considering that patents can be filed relatively cheaply ( typically less than $5,000 all-in, if it is not too complex and you have a good IP lawyer), they can be a good way to hedge against future costlier infringement claims.

Lastly, usually when patents are filed you do not really know what future competition and/or infringement will be, and if defending your patent will be worthwhile, or potentially profitable for your company.

I know. Been trying to break the top ten and I'm really close and then the "unhelpful" vote put the smack down on me. No worries here!! I really enjoy this forum. Especially when you can help out someone who is new to the industry and has a question. The best part of being in this industry for so long is parting wisdom to others. Not too many people seem to want to do this anymore.

I seem to remember multiple ccd cameras in a rather large dome assembly back in the 90's, I think it may have been built by Wren or Videolarm.

It was Wren.

I had a pic that I took with my BlackBerry, which means it must be in my archive, of a camera housing I took down around 2005 while upgrading the cameras on an old refrigerated warehouse.  The housing, made by Basler, was about 3'x3', and contained four tube cameras inside, each of which was pointed in one of four directions.  That bad boy had a date stamped in it of 1985... appropriately, it also appeared to have been rustproofed by Rusty Jones or Ziebart.  

1985... 

By no means was Arecunt the first.

Didn't Ganz have a multi-imager as well. I just remember one of the cameras you had to run four coax cables to. I'm sure someone in this forum still has an ADI catalog from the 90's still stuck in a book case somewhere in their office. You know we can't throw any paperwork away as we might need it later and catalogs are no different. :)

 

" That bad boy had a date stamped in it of 1985" Yes, but was it IP? :)

You know it wasn't.  The point is, Arecont wasn't the first to conceive putting more than one imager in a single housing, for them to suggest otherwise is preposterous, and any good lawyer will disprove their absurd claims.

I neglected to mention the most important part which is that this Basler housing had a pretty genius raceway or track that the cameras were mounted to, allowing then to slide one way or the other, arranging the images in such a way that one could simulate a panoramic image over multiple cameras -- the housing looked as if it could facilitate up to six cameras inside.

As I recall when I started in this business back in the 80's, there was a multi-head analog camera available for retail that looked a little like a WWII Sea Mine about 2.5 feet in diameter.  You could configure it with multiple fixed tube (yes Vidicon tubes!) cameras to give you a 90/180/360 view of your scene.  They were also available with 'dummy' lenses making it look like there were up to 12 cameras on it.

If my memory serves me correctly, this multi-head dome was 'invented' by one of the founding members of the PSA Security Group in the early 70's in response to an RFP to supply a National Retailer.  You'll have to check my facts with PSA but I'm quite certain I have it right.

I trolled Google images for a picture of the dome but no luck.  One of the old PSA Members may have a picture of it. My point: Multi-Head camera housings are NOT a new idea.  

That would be the old Photoscan (now owned by Siemens) scanner head. They were commonly used in a UK drugstore chain called 'Boots'

Thank you for clarifying Richard.

UPDATE -

Based on information from a recent filing, this is not proceeding in Arecont's favor. Initial reviews have determined Arecont's patent claims are "more likely than not" unpatentable after additional preliminary review:

There are now a series of due dates for discussions to be held between Arecont, Axis, and the Patent office, all set to be completed by August 21, 2018.

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