TSA Checkpoint Bins Just Got Really Expensive Thanks To A “Patent Holding Company”

The TSA violated a patent and now owes $103 million, the largest patent infringement damages award ever against the federal government because they’ve been knowingly doing this for 13 years.

The U.S. government owes a patent holding company at least $103 million because of the Transportation Security Administration’s misuse of its technology for handling trays at airport security checkpoints, a Washington, D.C.-based federal court said.

In an opinion made public Friday, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims said the TSA used SecurityPoint Holdings Inc’s patented methods for most of its security screenings at the largest U.S. airports since 2008 without compensating it.

The verdict shows just how silly U.S. patent law has become, since the patent is for “send[ing] trays through a checkpoint and us[ing] two carts to move the trays back and forth” including “use [of] a cart to move trays from the end of the checkpoint back to the start.”

The firm, which appears to me to be patent trolls, had asked for $618 million, so it looks like we got off cheap.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. The patent owner — or at least the original one — is apparently a real character too, with a judge not too happy with how he and his ex-wife would deal with the offspring in their messy divorce.

    Will his ex-wife be getting a slice of this pie?

    Maybe the TSA should see its budget reduced by this same amount and then some. It would be a major savings for the government to stop mandating passenger ID checks to fly domestically and bail out of the ID-based control of domestic travelers.

  2. I’m filing a patent on the use of lungs to transport oxygen from the air to your blood steam.

    Pay up, baby, pay up ! Ka-ching ! Ka-ching !

  3. With all due respect, if a court has ruled, it isn’t anyone’s opinion any more and it really doesn’t matter what any of us think.
    One arm of the federal government ruled against another arm.

  4. Just another day in the military-industry-security complex. It would be interesting to see who owns the holding company, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are some nasty surprises there. The building and sale of the Chambers of Horror (scanning booths), not to mention their very introduction, involved some creative use of U.S. stimulus money to Indian and Malaysian companies that possibly gave campaign contributions in just the right places.

  5. @James – No, your “opinion” is just some random thoughts, while a court “opinion” is the logic behind a court order/ruling. That order/ruling is legally enforceable until appealed and suspended or overruled by a higher court.

    Words can have more than one meaning.

  6. Isn’t this exactly a business proces, which is specifically excluded from patent protection? I’m guessing they would need to challenge the already-granted patent, though, and that’s VERY expensive.

  7. thank you, C_M
    a court has RULED with a verdict.
    Do you think I am the least bit concerned about the federal government’s ability or need to pay a paltry $100 million for a decade plus of using rights which a US government body, not me, said the TSA was not entitled to use without compensation on a day when the Dems are knocking each other silly over trying to spend multiple-TRILLIONS of dollars of money which my kids and grandkids will have to pay to some small business that none of us even heard about outside of this case?

  8. Flew to Chile for work a few months after 9-11. TSA was just starting up. Upon return, to MIA, I was surprised to see pink TSA bins that had a sticky label ‘cat litter box’, as though someone had just picked them up at Kmart. Probably a lot cheaper for all of us!

  9. I’m filing a patent on blogging about points and miles. I won’t ask for much Gary…honest.

  10. No worries. As the dot are in the White House explained, in a whisper: “It’s all paid for!”

  11. Tim Dunn, if the extreme rich and companies paid their fair share, your children would have a bright future.
    Billionaires control our government and too bad, seems you’ve drunk the kool-aid. I’m glad I’m old. I will be long dead while you and your children suffer under the coming fascist state. Have a nice day!

  12. Jorge,
    Security Point Holdings is not and never has been an “extreme rich” company.
    And U.S. patent law does not distinguish between the wealth of the patent holder and the violation of anyone else in using those rights.

    As hard as it is for you or anyone else to accept, the TSA violated the intellectual property rights of someone that held a US patent and a US court ruled against the TSA. And the TSA will have to pay.

  13. The government should a)Mint a coin worth $100M from cobalt-60 and pay the trolls with that. Then B) Fire the patent examiner who granted this patent from a rocket into the sun, after taking every penny he ever made back to fund the Cobalt-60 currency. Then fire and ban from any future service the man’s supervisor.

  14. @Gary: I wish you had given more detail. The patent seems indefensible on its face. An idea must be non-obvious in order to be patentable, and this isn’t.

  15. Processes can receive patent recognition too. Should some parent applications be rejected? Certainly. Should accepted patent applications be disregarded or overridden by a court? That’s a more complicated matter.

  16. As I understand it by a little reading, the patent validity had already been upheld by the court. And TSA had tested his technology in at least one, if not a few, locations, then copied the process elsewhere. Perhaps the reason it seems obvious is that it’s now widespread, and wasn’t in 2009 when all this started. The fact that TSA tried out his stuff, then copied it seems pretty damning. I remember cases back in the 1990s where the DOJ tried out someone’s case tracking software, then outright stole it, handing it to a favored insider, and the company lost the case, so the government stealing someone’s idea is not unknown. (See Inslaw and PROMIS if you want to read a twisted tale.)

    One can argue the patent shouldn’t have been granted, but there’s already been a trial about that. This was more about damages.

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