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Traffic Camera Patent Battle Headed to Court
One speed camera company accuses another of being a patent troll.

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A lawsuit over whether one company infringed on another's speed camera patent may be headed to trial. American Traffic Solutions (ATS) and B&W Sensors have not settled their heated dispute over the upstart photo ticketing firm infringed a valid patent belonging to ATS. Top officials with both firms as well as three Texas Transportation Institute researchers will be deposed leading up to what both sides agreed in court filings would be a ten-day trial. On Thursday, the firms will discuss having a mediator come up with a settlement, but if that does not happen the long process of preparing for a trial in June 2014 would begin.

B&W insists the ATS patent (known as 863, the last three digits of the patent number) is not valid since it copied claims from a previous B&W patent. The newer firm also argues the overlap is evidence that the ATS patent should not have been issued in the first place.

"The result is the current untenable situation where two patents have been issued with the same claim scope to two different owners," B&W attorney Craig Tadlock wrote. "This is nothing less than a form of bad faith conduct before the Patent Office. The evidence shows these are the facts, and those facts raise substantial and reasonable questions about the validity and enforceability of the ATS '863 Patent."

ATS seeks a court order to prevent B&W from using a speed camera system known as MVST because it infringes on the ATS patent. B&W says ATS is not entitled to a preliminary injunction because the company is not losing any business as a result of the dispute.

"ATS does not deny that it is not making or using any ATS product that would be protected under the claims of ATS '863 or '685 Patents," Tadlock wrote. "ATS also does not provide any evidence that ATS has licensed any other entity to do so. Therefore, regardless of what ATS implies or suggests, those undisputed facts make ATS a 'non-practicing' entity with regard to the '863 and '685 Patents, and ATS cannot make the requisite showing of irreparable harm."

ATS says the charges made by its competitor are complete nonsense.

"B&W attempts to obfuscate ATS's showing of irreparable harm by referring to ATS as a 'Non-Practicing Entity' (in other words, a patent troll) because ATS has not yet commercialized a product practicing the patents-in-suit," ATS attorney Brian C. Park wrote. "This characterization is disingenuous. The patented technology has not yet been appropriately certified, and ATS is working towards accomplishing that."

The ATS system encodes or stamps timing information into each video frame while the B&W system merely counts video frames to determine timing.

"The MVST Products infringe the '685 Patent because they use the known camera shutter speed as a timing device to generate accurate timing information, encode that timing information -- in the form of frame counts -- in video images, and use the frame-count timing information to calculate vehicle speed," Park wrote. "In other words, when the number of frames taken by a camera per minute is known, then the frame number includes timing information. B&W has not raised a valid non-infringement argument as to the '685 patent."

The last time ATS sued another speed camera company, the defending firm spent $3.7 million in attorney costs and court fees.

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