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Jim Katen

Homesafe

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Where are things at with Homesafe and their patent on using IR thermography as part of a home inspection?

Have they successfully sued anyone yet?

What has the response been from Fluke & Flir?

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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I GOOGLE for further information on this issue every few months, and just did so again, there has been no further action by Homesafe, at least that has turned up in my searches.

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I forget the details, but the lawsuits had to do with some stupid protocol that the Homesafe goons make their morons use when scanning houses. The lawyers expanded that to include all use of an IR camera in a house.

Flir/Fluke (one of them, I'm not sure) slapped them around and told them to go away.

I thought they did.

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Homesafe is still around and sending out the demand letters..... We had a fellow in our chapter get one of their letters right before Christmas.

They said for a $1,000 settlement they would not take him to court or pursue it any further. The letter went on to say that he had to either buy into Homesafe or stop doing IR on homes. He said that he contacted his brother who is an attorney in a large law firm who then sent Homesafe a go and pound salt letter... The best part of the letter was that he stated that his firm had been preauthorized for 2500 hours of litigation support in the event that they want to proceed with the lawsuit.

At the last chapter meeting he had not heard anything from Homesafe...

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The problem with these guys is, they are too greedy.

They could probably have gotten a few thousand inspectors to pay them $100 a year to go away, and IMO $200K a year for sending a bunch of letters would have been a pretty good rate of return.

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The only two suits I'm aware of were:

Homesafe vs Harris, but in that case Harris was a Homesafe franchisee, and failed to make franchise payments:

http://docs.justia.com/cases/federal/di ... /28810/20/

and as a result got dinged for the unpaid payments and court costs.

And,

Homesafe Inspection, Inc. v. Mark Gibson, filed about the same time, but I can't determine the status of that one.

The FLIR suit was a product defamation suit, it's been settled.

Unlike a lot of people, still believe this could be a *big* problem: once HS was granted the patents, the legal presumption is that they are valid, and demonstrating they are not would be a crushing burden for any individual user of IR equipment.

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They patented a protocol, that's it. The fact that I own and use an IR cam in no way infringes on their patents, and they have no authority to force me to use their protocols. This will only become a *big* problem if one or more of our licensing bodies determines that the Homesafe protocol is the end-all be-all of IR for home inspectors. It'll never happen.

Homesafe, come and get me [%|:-)]

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They patented a protocol, that's it. The fact that I own and use an IR cam in no way infringes on their patents, and they have no authority to force me to use their protocols. This will only become a *big* problem if one or more of our licensing bodies determines that the Homesafe protocol is the end-all be-all of IR for home inspectors. It'll never happen.

Homesafe, come and get me [%|:-)]

Download Attachment: icon_adobe.gif Flir Letter Re Homesafe.pdf

813.14 KB

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Hi Jim,

I think that Scott Wood has subscribed to this thread; so he should be receiving a notice and will respond.

In any event, it kind of looks like a Homesafe has made some kind of a desparate money grab, doesn't it? As Chad pointed out above, their claim is pretty ludicrous; and, if you'll forgive my saying so, seems to be the epitome of greed.

Back in 1971, Toyota recalled their 1600 cc Corolla engine for piston ring and valve seal problems and authorized dealers 4.5 hours of flat rate labor for the repair. I worked out a work flow where I could do the job in under an hour and at the height of the recall was knocking them out at the rate of 8 and sometimes 9 a day with a little overtime.

I was using the same tools that other mechanics used, I was removing the same parts, I was doing all of the same procedures and to the same quality standards, but I was doing so in a way that allowed the job to flow more smoothly and that drastically cut down on time.

What HomeSafe has done is kind of like that; they've worked out a procedure. Trying to enforce it though is just as ridiculous as if I'd gone off to a patent office, had patented my work flow procedure and then damanded money from Toyota, and every other Toyota mechanic in the country, in order for me not to sue them for copying my workflow technique.

It's too bad. They could have become famous for developing the residential IR inspection process, and had the prestige of that, instead of for just being greedy.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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Unlike a lot of people, still believe this could be a *big* problem: once HS was granted the patents, the legal presumption is that they are valid, and demonstrating they are not would be a crushing burden for any individual user of IR equipment.

Nope. It's not a problem. It's a--holes trying to enforce something that's unenforceable.

And, how hard would it be for every IR toting HI to band together and take them on?

Not hard, just some time online @ all the HI sites.

I think HS would bleed to death before several hundred home inspectors undertaking a class action would bleed to death.

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Several years ago I called HS and discussed this topic with them. I did not even have an IR camera I was just annoyed and wanted some answers. Their point of view was that they were the 1st ones to develop protocols for using IR in combination with a HI. They spent years working on the patent process, and the court of public opinion is not going to change that. If someone wants to take the time and money to fight their patent in court let them do so, but in the mean time they own the patent and intend on protecting it. The letters are a form of patent protection, because if they don’t actively take steps to prevent others from using their patented process then they could loose the patent. If I remember correctly there are 3 or 4 letters written by their attorneys each one a little stronger in language then the previous. By the way they don’t own the patent on using IR for finding missing / inadequate insulation; someone else owns that one.

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I think Mark hit on the right point....I remember now.

They send these things out so, in the event of someone actually infringing on their patent, they can show diligence in enforcing compliance.

Or, something like that.

Katen's letter spells out how easy it would be to beat their "rap".

They can't know squat how any of us use IR.

If any of it actually started to get serious, I have a hard time imagining Fluke and Flir and are going to roll over. They've spent a few dozens of millions advertising to building inspectors, several dozenmillion more developing their equipment, and will spend dozens of millions more in the quest to have every HI carrying one of their units.

So, imagining HS is going to shake down a muti-million dollar market is just that.

Imagining.

HS marketing is idiotic. They claim to be the only company to develop IR equipment with the specific intent being home and building inspection. They must be unaware of the entire Fluke T series, and the Bcam. Flir has about a half dozen models for buildings.

Both Fluke and Flir have equipment intended for building inspection for the past 15 years. If HS wan'ts to distinguish between "buildings" and "homes", that's their prerogative and patent. I'd be curious to know what a judge would think of that. Is a home not a building?

They have a page that claims IR lets their guys "in effect".....see through walls". The next paragraph then states that it doesn't actually let their guys see through walls.

I have to wonder what went on in the meeting when someone approved that ad. Was anyone paying attention?

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During the conversation I had with the guy from HS, I remember him saying they had approached FLIR to develop a IR camera just for them, but FLIR was not interested.

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I'm trying to put together some resources through ASHI to help inspectors avoid infringing on HomeSafes patents and take the sting out of receiving a demand letter from them.

Whether you agree or not with the HomeSafe business practices, they do own the patents to a process that involves IR and IAQ and they have a right to protect their patents. To ensure that we as home inspectors and thermographers don't infringe on their patents we need to understand exactly what they own and exactly how we can avoid any liability.

I've already consulted with a patent attorney on this matter to protect myself and I wish to make the information I have available to all inspectors, regardless of affiliation.

It will take a few dollars to put this together and to secure the minimal funding required from the ASHI board of directors, I will need to demostrate there is a problem widespread enough to warrant spending a few dollars.

If you have received a demand letter sometime in the past from HomeSafe, contact me: bjloden@knology.net

If you are an ASHI member and believe it is a function of a professional association to protect both the collective and individual rights of the members in regard to the practice of the profession, contact the ASHI officers and directors and let them know. Their phone numbers and email addresses are in the front of the ASHI Reporter.

You could also contact your chapter leaders and CoR reps.

Thanks for your help.

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If you offer some sort of separate IR inspection of a home, you are more likely to become a target and only if you routinely actively charge up the home to get temp differentials in the manner described in their patent.

In otherwords, if you use IR non-actively in the course of a home inspection (not following any protocol except that of a visual home inspection), I can't see how you could be infringing upon their patent.

Chris, Oregon

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If you offer some sort of separate IR inspection of a home, you are more likely to become a target and only if you routinely actively charge up the home to get temp differentials in the manner described in their patent.

In otherwords, if you use IR non-actively in the course of a home inspection (not following any protocol except that of a visual home inspection), I can't see how you could be infringing upon their patent.

Chris, Oregon

That could be very true, but their heavy handed extortion tactics need to be stopped.

If folks would just not rollover and pay their extortion fee and require HomeSafe to provide proof that their patent is being infringed upon in the way of a written report, they would go away. It is virtually impossible for them to prove any of their claims, they are just shooting in the dark and hoping for a random hit!

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Kind of like all those Nigerian bank scams. They hit enough to make it worthwhile.

Who was it that said, "There's a sucker born every minute!"

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Any letter in the mail from an attorney is concerning. A few years back, an employer of mine received a notice from an attorney representing Homesafe, that a patent was awarded on the use of IR in home inspections and that the company may be in violation of the patent if using IR for home inspections.

Needless to say the company was flabbergasted that it was even patented and not prior art since it had been used for building inspections as early as the 1970’s, way before Lee Pene started his work funded by the USDA in the 1990s. In 2009, FLIR offered a letter to its customers that Jim posted above, calming some, but not answering the big question you all have posted above. A few times a year this issue raises its head, but seems to die again without action.

The FLIR letter states it simply. "Failure to practice even one feature allows a person to avoid infringement." and as with all legal advice to insure you are protected and not infringing, "...you should contact your own attorney."

Most have ignored the letters, some have paid their fees. To make matters worse it is expected to cost a whole lot to disprove the patent. It will be interesting if anyone has that kind of spare change to fight the fight.

For those interested in viewing the many patents held by Homesafe Inspections, Inc and Lee Peng you can go to the Homesafe web site: http://www.homesafeinspection.com

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It would also cost a lot to prove and enforce the patent. I don't think it's enforceable.

We need to find out what the specifics are, and simply avoid doing one of them.

Bill Loden is working on this over @ ASHI.

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It would be great if we could get ASHI, NAHI, INACHI, CREIA, FABI, TARI, AmeriSpec, P2P, WIN, Home Team, Service Master and whoever else that might have a vested intrest to pool funds together to fight this extorsion attemp by HomeSafe.

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It would be great if we could get ASHI, NAHI, INACHI, CREIA, FABI, TARI, AmeriSpec, P2P, WIN, Home Team, Service Master and whoever else that might have a vested intrest to pool funds together to fight this extorsion attemp by HomeSafe.

Not likely, it's been about a quarter of a century since NAHI was founded and the ASHI and NAHI upper echelon and headquarters still don't play well together. It might be possible to do it at the chapter level; in some states there are coalitions that are made up of members of various organizations, that can probably help.

I think someone would need to initiate an action against Homesafe as a litigant and then establish a war chest managed by someone else, an escrow company perhaps, so folks knew that their money wasn't going into someone's personal bank account. Once that's done and word got out, I think most inspectors who are using IR or considering getting into it, would probably be willing to donate to the cause. If you could get couple of hundred to pony up $25 each, you'd have $5000 in the chest, four hundred contributors would be $10,000, etc.

For an action of this magnitude, you'd need an experienced patent and trademark attorney and I'm guessing at least $25K in a war chest, and clear evidence that there will be more where that came from, just to get that attorney interested. I don't think any attorney worth his or her salt will take on an action like that on contingency. In the end the only reward for the attorney is his fee; since there probably wouldn't be anything like punitive damages to hang his hat on.

ONE TEAM - ONE FIGHT!!!

Mike

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