TSA Will Pay $103 Million to Patent Holder of Handling Trays at Checkpoints

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TSA trays patent settlement

TSA Will Pay $103 Million to Patent Holder of Handling Trays at Checkpoints

Every time you go to an airport in the United States, you have to pass through a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) airport security checkpoint. At those checkpoints you will see trays, where you put items to be checked by scanners and then pick them up on the other side of the scanners.

But the system for picking up the trays at one side, dropping them off at the other end, and then using carts to move the trays back and forth, is covered by a patent. The TSA has apparently been misusing this “technology” for handling trays and now the U.S. government owes at least $103 million to the patent holding company.

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.

This whole thing started when SecurityPoint’s founder Joseph Ambrefe offered TSA a license to his patent in 2005 in exchange for the exclusive right to advertise on the trays at U.S. airports. TSA tested the technology for almost a year at several airports, but refused the offer.

TSA then universally adopted plaintiff’s patented method as its default means for screening at all Category X and Category I airports. SecurityPoint sued the U.S. government for patent infringement in 2011.

After a trial last year, U.S. Judge Eric Bruggink of the Court of Federal Claims said in an August opinion unsealed last week that the government owes SecurityPoint $103.6 million in royalties from 2008 through the date of the opinion. That’s based on a price tag of $0.02 per passenger.

He said that the TSA’s checkpoint design guides, employee testimony and expert testimony showed that with a few exceptions, SecurityPoint’s tray-recycling method was “universally used as the default method for all lanes” at the largest U.S. airports.

The ruling falls short of the $618 million in royalties that SecurityPoint had requested. The government had proposed a $12.6 million lump sum settlement.

Based in NYC. Points/miles enthusiast for years and actively writing about it for the last 6+ years at Danny the Deal Guru. I'm always looking out for deals. Making a few bucks is always nice, but the traveling is by far the best part of this business.

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  1. Wonder why broken bureaucratic parts of the government apparatus don’t improve? Great example of how ingenuity is rewarded.

  2. The design I saw min Gatwick was far more efficient. Allowing 4 or 5 passengers to prepare their trays simultaneously on the flat table, and then push them over onto the moving belt when filled.

  3. The process of manually returning trays to other side of security on carts is a major security risk. I’m shocked it has not been exploited. I will not share how it can be exploited but anyone with an average IQ should be able to figure it out. I realized over a decade while waiting in a slow moving security line at Baltimore it would be very easy to get banned items past security. In EU airports the trays are returned via a conveyor belt and removes this security threat.


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