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Tuesday, June 11, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Night-Vision Goggle Spat Resolved for $75 Million

WASHINGTON (CN) - The U.S. government owes Honeywell International $75 million to wrap up its nearly decade-long lawsuit over night-vision goggle technology, a federal judge ruled.

At the heart of the dispute is an advancement in night-vision goggle, or NVG, technology that made such equipment compatible with aircraft cockpits.

Since NVGs work by amplifying available light, especially red or infrared light, the full-color displays in fighter planes like General Dynamics' F-16 and Lockheed Martin's C-130H and C-130J transport aircraft overwhelmed earlier NVG sensors.

Allied Corp. sought to patent technology that resolved that issue in 1985 but was not immediately awarded the patent on that application, No. 06/786,269.

Court documents show that Naval Air Systems Command engineer David McLure reviewed the '269 application in March 1986 and concluded that a secrecy order should be issued under the 1951 Invention Secrecy Act.

A secrecy order bars the award of a patent, keeps the invention undisclosed, restricts the filing of foreign patents, and specifies procedures to prevent disclosure of ideas contained in the application. The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) says that inventors can only avoid the risk of such imposed secrecy by forgoing patent protection.

The law was passed to prevent technology from getting into the hands of America's enemies, but it does afford compensation rights. Under the act, applicants can "apply to the head of any department or agency who caused the order to be issued for compensation for the damage caused by the order of secrecy and/or for the use of the invention by the government," the FAS says on its website.

The secrecy order on the '269 patent prevented the patent from issuing every year until 2000.

After Allied and Honeywell merged to form Honeywell International, the '269 application became the '914 application. Honeywell finally won the '914 patent in 2002 and it sued the United States three years later for pre- and post-patent compensation.

Judge Susan Braden with the Court of Federal Claims ruled in 2012 that Honeywell was entitled to $1.8 million in damages for the government's use of the '914 patent before the patent was officially issued in 2002.

Earlier this year the government accepted Honeywell's offer to settle the dispute over post-patent use of the technology for $75 million.

Braden ended the nearly decade-long dispute on Feb. 5 with a final judgment.

"The parties have agreed that final judgment in this action be entered in favor of Honeywell and against the government for the total lump sum of $75 million," Braden wrote. "Said judgment shall not be appealed by either party."

In return, the government receives a "worldwide, non-exclusive, irrevocable and fully paid-up license."

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