Axis Beats Patent Troll

Author: Carlton Purvis, Published on Jun 05, 2013

Axis has beaten one of the biggest and most powerful patent trolls, landing an important victory for the surveillance industry. Two years ago, Walker Digital filed suits against Axis and other security manufacturers. Now, the key 1998 patent that provided the foundation for the suit has been overturned by the US government, according to the decision obtained by IPVM and the case has been dismissed.

This helps all manufacturers (and by extension integrators and users) as entities like Digital Walker seek to extract licenses across industries for fundamental functions.

Moreover, unrelated to this case, but absolutely related to these lawsuit campaigns, the US White House just launched a series of initiatives to crack down on patent trolls that we believe can further help in the fight against unscrupulous entities attacking the surveillance industry.

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**** ***** *** ************* (*** ** ********* *********** *** *****) as ******** **** ******* ****** **** ** ******* ******** ****** industries *** *********** *********.

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Comments (18)

I hope Axis sues for and wins their legal costs.

That reference to Object Video is very valid. They make a living on sueing companies for their "patent infringement". It is simply rediculous. Their software is wretched and worthless and the only way they can make money is by sueing others. I wouldn't want to be known for that myself.

I agree that manufacturers have not managed to coordinate with each other in the past which has resulted in most companies settling with the trolls instead of fighting the case alone.

I believe that the problem starts with the legal profession. It is not in the interest of the attorneys hired to defend these cases to share clients, information or costs. The result is that almost every company faces the patent trolls alone thereby providing employment for the maximum number of attorneys.

Perhaps IPVM could provide a service next time a troll attacks the security industry by facilitating contact between the companies being attacked. If the CEO’s of the defendant companies (and not their lawyers) were involved in constructing a consortium it might really happen next time!

Excellent closing statement Carlton. Manufacturers put aside your differences get together and nail this once and for all! analytics will be a great catalyst for IP system sales.

Undisclosed, all the companies are named as defendants together on court documents. It wouldn't be any harder for them to just call each other as it was for me to call them all for this post. In some patent cases several companies named in the suit will all get one lawyer. In other cases they all get their own. I'm not sure the reason behind it, but I suspect it's because a company may feel sharing a lawyer may not work out in their best interest. For example, if Axis, OnSSI, and Tyco had the same lawyer would everyone have beat the troll or would everyone have settled?

We are happy to help share information with manufacturers and have actually connected a few together in the past year or two to work together on patent lawsuits.

That said, the big problem is that IPVM is really designed to be a consortium of manufacturers. I think SIA (the US based Security Industry Association) should do this as they are the trade federation for manufacturers.

Carlton, one thing that would help is coordination with others who are not being sued. For instance, Axis, OnSSI and Tyco may be named but other manufacturers may have information or documents that could help those companies beat a patent troll lawsuit.

We were approached by another notorious patent troll Wi-Lan out of Canada a couple of years ago, regarding our supposed infringment of their huge portfolio of wireless patents.

As a small company we did not have the resources to examine each of the approx 100 patents and claims in detail to see if we did or did not infringe, so I negotiated the best deal I could and signed.

Prior to signing, I contacted Atheros and Ubiquiti (both of whom were also on this company's hit list). Got no meaningful response from either.

Most small companies are in the same boat. The trolls go after the little guys first with all legal guns blazing, then get them to sign quickly by offering them a carrot of very favorable rates, so they can go after the big guys in court with the "evidence" of these signed licenses in hand. The usual venue for these infringement suits is eastern Texas, where for some reason a cottage industry in patent lawsuits has emerged.

I have a few patents of my own, but the current process stinks and does negatively impact innovation and product development. I'm not a big fan of the Obama white house but this time they are doing something right by going after this nonsense.

That's very interesting Tom. I won't ask the price, but if you can and willing to answer, was it a onetime fee or a recurring fee?

Luis, in general, from what I have seen, sometimes it's a onetime fee but more often it's recurring: X cents / dollars per unit (wireless node, camera, recorder, etc.).

I'm under NDA on those details but can say that the amounts in question are very modest. They don't go after little guys expecting to make a killing - it's all about gathering ammo for going after the big guys.

Walker Digital is clearly a patent troll. I think the industry owes Axis more than a debt of gratitude. I am glad you were willing to invest the time, money and other resources to help stop this new business of trolling in the video market. The win is just another example of Axis taking a leadership position that goes well beyond technology. You are collaborative, creative and a key participant in helping improve the video market and professionalism in the industry.

While I don’t have a financial stake in this ruling, I as everyone in the industry wins because now you and other suppliers can use precious resources for the development of new products, services and education.

The Axis win is positive but because the other defendants whom 'sold-out' and settled leaves this troll with a win overall which they can then take as a precedence in future cases which is the main goal of the inital round.

They lost their key patent for surveillance. That means it's pretty much game over for this functionality.

Of course, Digital Walker has lots of other patents covering lots of other industries and can continue attacking those.

In reply to Tom Sharples - I am not surprised that you "got no meaningful response" when you spoke to some other defendants, I have had similar experiences. I still believe that the problem lies with the lawyers - I suspect that your request was either dealt with by a lawyer or came from someone who was being instructed by a lawyer. Company CEO need to talk to each other!

On Tom Sharples other point that "if you sign quickly you will get a favourable rate". I have heard this argument many times from all sides. But let's be clear, it is a standard part of troll's sales talk and is not generally true. In my personal experience the companies that sign first get the worst deal and it’s the companies that negotiate and show that they are prepared to fight that get the best deal. A consortium is not just useful for fighting it out in court, it would be very helpful for exploring an out of court settlement for 2 reasons a) the partners could share the cost of an attorney to negotiate a better settlement b) the troll would be more likely to settle at lower rate because of the risk that a strong consortium could counter sue and start attacking the validity of the patents.

Following up on the first comment about wining legal costs (i.e., having the loser pay). In the US, my understanding is that this is almost never the case (i.e., the 'American Rule'). Indeed, there are some politicians pushing for this right now, but it's not close to becoming law.

By contrast, in the UK, the loser typically pays the winner's legal costs. There's a debate over which approach is better.

You can sue anybody for anything. Doesn't mean they'll win, but Axis would have to probably have to prove a strong case that OV was really should have known they were doing wrong in suing Axis. The American Rule does not seem to be an end all final say, but you're right it could possibly be invoked or a factor in the case. Most certainly OV would try to have any counter claim against them dismissed based on the American Rule. But then the counter suing party could cite general punitive damages and not necessarily recovery of legal fees. All in how you word it.

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