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Home Safe vs Assured Home Inspection


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On August 7, 2013 suit was filed in Lafayette County, Mississippi for patent infringement against myself and my company. My attorney and myself are very certain they intend on proceeding with the case. They seek damages for lost revenue, enhanced damages, attorneys fees, and etc. Essentially they want my business and everything I own.

I am posting on this forum to raise awareness that the suit everyone has feared has begun. Why my company? I can only suppose that it's because of my proximity to their office( forty miles).

My company is typical of most small business's. Just barley making enough money to pay the bills and stay alive in this trying economy. I do not use their process. I do however use infrared in home inspections. I don't pump up house in preparation for home inspection, use their software, etc..

I estimate defense of this suit will cost more than my company could possibly bear. There is no help from insurance because copyright infringement is specifically excluded. So I'm asking for help.

Anyone who has connections to Flir, Fluke, Testo etc. Making them aware of this would be critical. After all, they should have fought this battle years ago. I am a member of InterNACHI and am trying to use the defense fund as this case will affect everyone in the industry.

I am also seeking help from ASHI. I believe this case crosses all barriers between the two organizations.

If you read online some people's estimates beating this case could well exceed 150,000 dollars. Appealing to the big guys remains the best choice. Possibly we maight be able to get some sort of defense fund set up by all three.

Allowing HS to win will set a precedent that no one wants.

I appreciate your time.

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Home safe was talked about here before:

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... C_ID=13561

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... IC_ID=8940

https://www.inspectorsjournal.com/forum ... IC_ID=8010

Pretty sure we punted somebody from home safe for making fake posts and answering them on the board a few years ago.

I'm no lawyer but can give you contact information for a company that is very good at finding prior art citations that can be used to invalidate patents. It's contingency basis, if they find prior art citations you have to pay.

Playing poker one might think that's a fight that could end up invalidating the very patent and they may want to move on to easier targets. Telling them you don't have the funds to fight isn't what I would do first off. I would be letting them know how much it was going to cost them and the risks they take by engaging you. Patent trolls won't like that kind of fight, they want to intimidate you into settling and move on to the next victim.

BTW: Patent infringement and copyright infringement are completely different.

Let me know if you want the contact info?

Michael

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Charles,

likely many of the forum participants are not aware of what this issue is really about. While I know some of the history of the "claim", I am not as well versed as you appear to be.

Want to try to post a short summary? BTW, I am not a user of thermography.

Mike has made some very good points. Get a good atty and trust them.

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To All,

I am very familiar with this issue and with HomeSafe. They have been sending out letters to home inspectors and energy auditors threatening legal action for patent infringement since about 2009 or 2010. When I found out about this in 2010 I informed the ASHI Board of Directors of these threats. They took the threat seriously and appointed me to lead a task force to investigate the issue.

We consulted four patent attorneys to evaluate the validity of their claims and the consensus among patent experts was that given the overwhelming evidence of "prior art" in this field, and the specific nature of their patented process, any litigation could be defeated. However the costs to litigate this could be expected to run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Then a separate suit, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, would be required to invalidate their patents.

We then attempted to build an industry coalition to defend inspectors of this threat but since no inspector had at that time actually been sued, the companies involved in IR sales and training backed out of providing funding for an inspector defense fund.

At ASHI we have been watching the situation since late 2011 and for over a year there were no threat letters going out. I was hopeful that the problem was going to evaporate. However this represents a dramatic change of events. Since finding out about this yesterday I have been in contact with the board and we are reformulating our task force and are again going to work to protect the profession from this threat to the thousands of inspectors who currently use infrared technology as a part of their inspections and we hope that the rest of the industry will join us. Though Mr. Russell is not a member of ASHI, we intend to assist in obtaining funding needed to protect his business and his family.

Please consider that if you now use infrared technology or ever expect to in the future, you have a stake in this. HomeSafe claims that if you turn on an infrared camera in a house, you are in violation of their patents. A win on their home court in Oxford, Mississippi would give them a powerful precedence to start filing suits across the country.

Bill Loden

ASHI President Elect

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Though Mr. Russell is not a member of ASHI, we intend to assist in obtaining funding needed to protect his business and his family.

Bill Loden

ASHI President Elect

As a dues-paying ASHI member I want to echo the idea that ASHI should play a huge role in helping Mr. Russell. This affects all of us. I trust that our board will lead on this issue.

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Though Mr. Russell is not a member of ASHI, we intend to assist in obtaining funding needed to protect his business and his family.

Bill Loden

ASHI President Elect

As a dues-paying ASHI member I want to echo the idea that ASHI should play a huge role in helping Mr. Russell. This affects all of us. I trust that our board will lead on this issue.

I agree. I have no problem with Homesafe defending their rightful patents. But casting the net this wide is despicable.

I'd love to see ASHI and InterNACHI set aside their differences and cooperate on this, single, issue.

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Thank you guys for you vote of support.

I believe my attorney is completely capable of protecting my assets. But I don't know if he is aware or can be made aware of the consequences of the case regarding Home Inspectors. In this case I will probably need a couple of attorneys. Not to mention a Patent attorney.

I don't know if this is the right case to try to over throw the patent. That's for attorneys to decide.

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Thank you guys for you vote of support.

I believe my attorney is completely capable of protecting my assets. But I don't know if he is aware or can be made aware of the consequences of the case regarding Home Inspectors. In this case I will probably need a couple of attorneys. Not to mention a Patent attorney.

I don't know if this is the right case to try to over throw the patent. That's for attorneys to decide.

Because of the implications of this issue your attorney might want to contact the attorney for ASHI to swap thoughts and maybe get a more clear picture of what the stakes are. I am not sure where ASHI is on this but their attorney should be up to speed. And, if a pool of funds is to be developed it should be a donation of at least the value of an inspection, especially from those of you who do IR work. Small donations of $25 or $50 won't get anyone anywhere.

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I want to thank Nick for coming out and joining in the larger inspection community. Anything Nick does to advance the profession is appreciated.

Nick graciously joined the wide ranging consortium of inspection associations, individuals, law firms, and multi-national IR manufacturing companies in opposing this ridiculous extortion attempt.

We thank you for stepping up to take credit for what dozens of other's have diligently worked on for the benefit of us all. Someone usually grabs the spotlight for what many toiled for, and who better than Nick to bask in the glory?

Please stop back again and join us in making the world a better place.

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Nick,

Thank you for your post and involvement regarding the legal action. Could you be more specific on the reasoning behind HomeSafe's lawyers dropping legal action?

He paid them off - just what they wanted.

That's the precedent the patent trolls needed to continue their extortion.

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Additional information and posts of HomeSafe's patents on the use of thermography has spread to other forums including, LinkedIn's RESNET BPI Energy Audit and Home Performance.

It seems that once a patent is issued, little can be done to prevent it's enforcement without incurring huge legal expenditures. This may be the reasoning for the lack of visible fight from FLIR when the letters first went out in 2008.

Seems time is ripe for home inspection organizations and imager manufactures to team up on this issue.

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Do not forget that the other side also has the risk of fighting a long legal battle too. It's not just one of us against a bully. If there was an industry wide cooperation to push back, I'd take odds that HomeSafe was as much at risk of as one of us as an individual. I greatly doubt the multinational corporations that manufacture the tools are afraid.

And, what Kibbel said. Nicky, whatever possessed him to play such a small time maneuver, has helped these folks, while wrapping himself in the guise of a savior. It's carnival sideshow entertainment that hurts us in the long run.

Loden asked me to put this up here in TIJ. It's the responsible and intelligent approach.

Important Notice from ASHI

Threat to the Home Inspection and Thermal Imaging Industry

For years ASHI has quietly monitored the inspection industry landscape for threats to our profession. Through a grass roots network of members, committees, chapter leaders, the Council of Representatives and the Board of Directors, we effectively survey--and when needed--react to changing conditions. ASHI is also the only association of professional home inspectors with a lobbyist in Washington DC, allowing us to protect the entire profession from regulation that would be adverse to the profession and promote positive policy, thus enhancing the home inspection profession and adding value for our clients.

Now a threat to our profession has materialized. First recognized by some ASHI members in 2008, the threat has now reached a critical stage and requires all members' attention and consideration. This threat is from a company in Oxford, Mississippi, HomeSafe Home Services, incorporated in 2003. One of the HomeSafe cofounders, while working as a researcher at a university in Oxford, Mississippi, used industry-developed infrared techniques and technology to supplement his acoustic research to locate termite colonies inside the walls of buildings.

Over the course of several years, the researcher and his associates developed patents on procedures related to the use of infrared camera technology in a residential structure. While much of his work can be shown to be from widely documented procedures developed by others in the 1980s and 1990s, the patents applications were submitted to and approved by the US Patent Office. These patents are now the basis of claims being made against inspectors and thermographers who use infrared camera technology.

Around 2005 or 2006 HomeSafe began sending letters to home inspectors and energy auditors who use infrared cameras in evaluating homes, threatening legal action for patent infringement. HomeSafe claims, "It is impossible to perform a complete and accurate inspection or even a partial inspection with an infrared camera without utilizing HomeSafe's patented methods and infringing."

Additionally they allege, "If you are using an infrared camera to detect anomalies in a home related to indoor air quality, energy loss, moisture intrusion and electrical hazards among others, you are violating HomeSafe's patents."

ASHI established a task force in 2011 to assess these threats. The task force consulted a number of expert patent attorneys from around the country and also worked to assemble a coalition of industry stakeholders to determine the veracity of HomeSafe's claims. As the task force continued its work, the threat from HomeSafe appeared to diminish and over the past year ASHI has been monitoring the situation.

On August 7, 2013 HomeSafe filed its first lawsuit in the Northern District of Mississippi for patent infringement against a home inspector in Tupelo, Mississippi. ASHI learned of this action on August 19 and immediately began taking steps to reactive the work of the task force and make contact with industry stakeholders. Our intention was to assist this inspector who is a member of another inspection association to ensure he had the information and resources he needed to protect his assets.

In the meantime, the owner of the defendant's home inspection association stepped in, before the court date for the defendant response on August 28, and offered to pay HomeSafe a cash settlement to drop the suit. While it might have been intended as a generous gesture, this offer and acceptance of cash provides HomeSafe a quick win and additional funds to file more legal action. This ill-advised payment to HomeSafe will further embolden them to pursue their legal strategy. In the end, while certainly a godsend for the inspector involved, this can mean more threats and more suits by HomeSafe against home inspectors.

Be aware that there are also some in the home inspection industry beginning to report they have a "magic bullet" or "shield" against HomeSafe's threats. They lead their members to believe that if a thermographer adopts their "procedure," they will be protected. Before you accept this, you should consult with a patent attorney. You are likely to discover that while the tactics suggested might be marginally helpful if you have to defend yourself in court, those tactics are in no way likely to deter or prohibit HomeSafe from engaging you in a civil action in US Federal Court.

ASHI is taking positive steps to assist its members who use thermal imaging as a part of their business. ASHI's actions will also benefit any residential thermographer, regardless of association or industry affiliation. An ASHI 2011 member survey indicates that today there are close to 2,000 ASHI members using thermal imaging in their business, and there are many thousands more across the thermal imaging community.

ASHI will engage all thermographers and the thermal imaging support industry to join our coalition and develop a unified strategy to protect the interest of our members. This will require industry-wide cooperation. In the days ahead, ASHI will issue a Call to Action to let each of you know how you can show your support for our efforts to protect not just our members but the industry as a whole.

Finally, please consider what happens if the industry ignores this issue. Predicting the future is never easy, but we can be sure of one thing: HomeSafe will not quietly give up their fight to control the residential infrared market. They have proven they are committed to achieve their objectives with ten years of effort. Do you want to face them alone or do you want to stand with thousands of inspectors and thermographers across the country and meet this challenge head on?

ASHI will provide additional updates as this situation unfolds.

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This was sent to me overnight by an unhappy INACHI member. It show Nicks true motivation with this issue...

Nick Gromicko

InterNACHI Admin

Join Date: Aug 2002

Location: Valley Forge, PA

Posts: 36,239

Re: Assured Home Inspection vs. Home Safe

I'm not interested in an insurance policy that covers members who infringe on the patents or a discount for members who want a license to use them. I'm trying to acquire partial ownership in the patents so that I can enforce them on non-members who are using IR cameras.

Nick Gromicko

Certified Master Inspector

President, Contractors Association

Founder, InterNACHI

"Just as iron sharpens iron, one man sharpens another." Proverbs 27:17

Last edited by gromicko; 9/11/13 at 6:30 PM..

From Assured Home Inspection vs. Home Safe - Page 24 - InterNACHI Inspection Forum http://www.nachi.org/forum/f6/assured-h ... z2eg8JKkPi

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