ObjectVideo sues Bosch, Sony, and Samsung on patent issues

April 11, 2011 – Video analytics technology firm ObjectVideo has announced that it is suing three of the top IP video surveillance camera manufacturers, alleging that the three companies are infringing up on ObjectVideo's intellectual property in the area of video analytics. The lawsuit follows a significant investment from a number of patent litigators and ObjectVideo's establishment of a technology relationship with an undisclosed publicly-traded IP camera maker.*

The suit was filed in Virginia's Eastern District Court on Wed., April 6, 2011. The plaintiff's counsels are listed as Troutman Sanders LLP and Robins Kaplan Miller & Ciresi LLP. Officially named in the complaint are the following entities: Robert Bosch Gmbh; Bosch Security Systems, Inc.; Samsung Group; Samsung Techwin Co., Ltd.; Samsung Opto-Electronics America, Inc.; Sony Corporation; and Sony Electronics, Inc. The complaint alleges that these firms infringed on three key patents held by ObjectVideo.

The patents affected, according to the official complaint [PDF file], are the following: "video tripwire," "detection of change in posture in video," and "video surveillance system employing primitives." The first patent is usually applied in video surveillance to use cameras to detect perimeter intrusions, and the "system employing primitives" patent generally applies to the communications of analytics metadata between the camera and elements of the video recording system. The "posture" patent refers to the detection of a change in posture of someone in the video camera's scene, and is most commonly referred to as "slip-and-fall" detection.

The complaint asks for the defendants to pay damages for using ObjectVideo's technology, and that the firms "be enjoined from further infringement."

Spokespersons for Bosch, Sony and Samsung said they had no comment on ObjectVideo's pending litigation.

All three of the companies are listed under ObjectVideo's partners pages on its website, but ObjectVideo's marketing director Ed Troha said the three weren't partners in a traditional sense, but were rather simple "one off" integration partners. Samsung, however, was listed as part of the firm's "OV Ready" page. The OV Ready partner designation is designed to indicate "seamless interoperability between ObjectVideo OnBoard-enabled devices and OV Ready-compliant management systems." Troha said that while there may be some level of interoperability, "there is no embedded or OEM relationship with these companies."

According to Raul Fernandez, chairman and now CEO of ObjectVideo, the movement to enforce their patents followed two major milestones for the company. First, ObjectVideo landed an intellectual property licensing partnership with a global, publicly-traded IP camera manufacturer, a company whose name Fernandez said he could not disclose. The second part of the equation was a significant round of funding in December 2010 to the tune of almost $28 million from York Capital.

As part of the investment from York Capital, ObjectVideo then hired Bill Marino (ObjectVideo's chief intellectual property officer) and Anthony Grillo (senior vice president for litigation and licensing) and then subsequently filed suit against Samsung, Sony and Bosch.

Following the funding round and the camera technology partnership deal, "we started examining our patents and looking at the strength of our patents," said Fernandez. "In the process of doing that, we raised the question of how we would move forward on an assertion program regarding our intellectual property. We want fair consideration for these innovations."

Both Grillo and Marino are ObjectVideo investors and joined the firm as part of the York investment, said Fernandez, and both, he said, "have a successful history in terms of monetization of patents."

Eric Pritchard, a partner in the Philadelphia law firm of Kleinbard Bell & Brecker LLP with a specialty in the electronic security industry, said that patent litigation has been creating larger settlements and driving up the number of filings.

"Increasingly large patent settlements in recent years have given patent owners increased incentive to pursue the enforcement of their patents," Pritchard said. "In fact, over the past two decades, patent litigation has more than doubled. Federal courts now report more than 2,500 new patent suits are filed each year. Companies will continue to use patents as a competitive advantage."

Fernandez noted that while a portion of the recent $28 million funding is being used to sue to defend the company's intellectual property, a substantial portion is also being used to further sales and R&D efforts for ObjectVideo.

He said that he brought back in former CTO Dr. Allen Lipton. Lipton, an early employee and key developer in the company's analytics, will again serve as chief technology officer focused on intellectual property. Fernandez added that he also made key sales appointments and additions in terms of "company brainpower." "We are adding a lot of key talent," Fernandez said. "We are in the business of continuing to innovate; we want analytics to be everywhere."

Fernandez said he did not expect the lawsuit to limit advancements in video content analytics or to stymie the adoption of this technology.

"If you look at other industries, and companies that invest in research, there's no chilling effect [when intellectual property lawsuits occur]. Industries thrive on innovation. Fast moving industries thrive on smaller companies inventing things."

Instead of chilling the industry, Fernandez said he had already been approached by other companies in the security industry who were interested in a business relationship with ObjectVideo in terms of licensing the company's analytics technology. Fernandez would not, however, rule out additional lawsuits: "We will continue to look at anyone that may be infringing on the technology."

Asked whether he believed software should be patentable, Fernandez said it should.

"Philosophically, I believe it should. It goes back to who has the idea and who spends the money developing the idea and brining it to market. If you don't have rules governing the development of intellectual property, then it actually stifles innovation."

Asked about whether this legislation could draw out in court and what effect a long lawsuit might have on the company, Fernandez said only that long lawsuits are always a possibility and that "time can work against the smaller company."

Pritchard said that the lawsuit had all the right elements for potentially becoming a long, expensive drawn-out suit.

"This suit, involving three sophisticated multi-national industry behemoths as defendants, could prove to be protracted and extraordinarily expensive, and it's a suit industry players may want to watch closely," he said. "Among other things, it will be interesting to see what impact, if any, a successful lawsuit may have on integrators and end-users using the defendants' goods and services."

*Update: Major companies known to have licensed ObjectVideo's technology include Pelco, Cisco, Axis and Verint.