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Controlling the airspace: Dogfight begins over defined airspace patents

Matt Braunel February 25, 2021

Aerodefense LLC holds itself out as providing reliable drone detection through its patented AirWarden Drone Detection System. According to Aerodefense’s website, “the AirWarden™ drone detection system provides security teams the early warning and actionable intelligence they need to respond quickly and effectively to drone threats.” Aerodefense provides customer testimonials from MetLife Stadium, the United States Air Force and some Departments of Corrections about its technology. According to Aerodefense, the AirWarden system detects both UASs and their controllers.

In 2019, Tim Just filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Aerodefense, claiming the AirWarden system infringed Just’s patent rights. Just asserts that the AirWarden system infringes his U.S. Patent No. 10,089,887 entitled “Drone Encroachment Avoidance Monitor.”

Aerodefense petitioned the United States Patent and Trademark Office to reexamine the ‘887 Patent to determine if the patent should have been issued. In December 2020, the Court administratively closed Just’s lawsuit against Aerodefense, pending a decision in the reexamination proceedings. The reexamination proceeding ended shortly thereafter with a reexamination certificate issued, confirming the patentability of at least some amended claims of the ‘887 Patent.

In February 2021, Aerodefense filed a declaratory judgment action against Just. Two new patents had issued to Just, and Aerodefense now seeks to resolve Just’s claims of infringement of these patent as well as the previously asserted ‘887 Patent. Perhaps foreshadowing actions to come, Aerodefense also mentions that it owns U.S. Patent 10,339,818 entitled “Drone Defense System.” The ‘818 Patent relates to a system that prevents unmanned aerial systems (UAS) from flying into a defined airspace and a system that prevents a UAS not having a proper authorization or priority from flying into permanently or temporarily defined airspace. Aerodefense claims inventions of the ‘818 Patent are incorporated into Aerodefense’s products.

The cases are: Just v. Aerodefense LLC, Case No. 3:2019cv14129 (D.N.J.) and Aerodefense LLC v. Just, Case No. 3:2021cv02683 (D.N.J).

As the drone and UAS industry continues to grow and develop, similar patent enforcements may appear more often.

For any questions regarding intellectual property protections in this space or generally, please contact the author below or your regular Thompson Coburn contact. More information on Thompson Coburn’s patent practices can be found on our patent prosecution, IP litigation and post-grant proceeding pages.

Matt Braunel is a partner in Thompson Coburn’s Intellectual Property practice group.