360 tour lawsuit

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CLeary
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360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Mon Oct 07, 2019 8:32 pm

Got this letter today, anyone have knowledge about this? Tours made with Pano2vr affected by this lawsuit?

Re: Infringement of Tour Technology Software Patents

We are writing to you on account of your operation of a website incorporating a 360° virtual tour using a geometric projection which keeps straight lines straight during up-and-down and left and right changes in the direction of virtual view. This technology is covered by United States Patent Number 6,754,400, as affirmed and elaborated by Ex Parte Re-Examination Certificate 9844, which is the culmination of a research effort conducted in the United States and Romania and originally funded by me.

We have filed numerous lawsuits in the United States against infringers of the technology. All of these lawsuits have been successfully prosecuted as you can verify with a simple Google search. License fees have ranged into six figures. You should also be aware that when the International Virtual Reality Photographers Association challenged our patent in the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the patentability of our technology was confirmed with the issuance of 68 claims. Reference is made to the attached patent and re-examination certificate. Currently, the technology is licensed by Tour Technology Software to many users, including virtually every major hotel in the United States, either directly or through their virtual tour providers.

As you can see from the record, our company will not tolerate patent infringement. We hope that you will choose to act responsibly and accept our very reasonable offer of a license under the technology which you are using.

Our licensing fees for the life of the patent are as follows:

License fee for a single photographer: $650

License fee for a single real estate agent: $250

License fee for a single restaurant, attraction or other business: $250

The above fees include a release for past infringement of the patent.

We trust that you recognize the seriousness of this matter to our company and we look forward to your promptly taking action to avoid enforcement activity.

email: ttslicensing@gmail.com

Tour Technology Software, Inc., Orlando, Florida

If you have any questions, or if you would like to address a special issue, I would be pleased to discuss the same with you.

Very truly yours,


Richard Wilson, Jr.

President

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Hopki
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by Hopki » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:22 pm

Hi,
I have made a note of this post and will try and find out more.
Regards,
Hopki

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soulbrother
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by soulbrother » Mon Oct 07, 2019 10:56 pm

Nice...
...seem to be another try to make "easy money", probably the same "construct" as we had in Germany a few years ago...

this was a "utility patent" of a company named: Topexpert GmbH
They tried to "collect" money with some "warning letters".
See also:
viewtopic.php?f=7&t=8618

There was an answer of a legal team - but that was of course for that "case" in Germany, but maybe this info can help:

Following your issue with a potential patent regarding panoramas in Germany, we conducted a brief legal study with our Legal partners.
Here are the outcome and our advices:

Status:
Apparently, they applied for a patent, but the patent has been rejected, and they applied instead for an utility patent.
The utility patent application is much lighter compared to a normal patent application. The validity of the utility patent isn't checked by the German Patent office.
Taking into account that the patent application has been rejected, it is likely that the utility patent is weak and can be "cancelled".

Advices:
You should write and send a reply ("registered letter with acknowledgment of receipt") to the sender of the letter, stating the following points:
1) Acknowledge the reception of the letter;
2) State that you have some doubts about the validity of the utility patent;
3) AND ask to get a copy of a report from a 3rd party (ex: Patent Office, Patent Legal Attorney...) stating / proving on the basis of a prior art search the validityor invalidity of this utility patent; you can assume that you believe that they must already have such report ;
4) AND state that, if you don't get any feedback (don't get a copy of such a report) by 1 month? 2 months? you will consider that they give up with their claims.

And then, let see what happens.

CLeary
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:12 pm

Thanks SoulBrother. Good advice.

CLeary
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Mon Oct 07, 2019 11:32 pm

Thanks Dave, I saw the post on IVRPA and added to it recently. Seems legit but it dates back to 2011 - is this an on going scam?

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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:17 pm

Just when we thought nothing could go wrong.

I thought that this was BS, but DAMN...... the patent is legit https://patents.google.com/patent/US6754400 I can't say that the message with the ttslicensing@gmail.com (odd that a company would be using a gmail address as opposed to their own company email domain) is legit....but the patent is and they really have been filing and winning lawsuits.

The patent is not only real, but they filed the patent with such a broad generalization and also some very detailed processes that it covers quite a bit from using a fish-eye lens to the algorithms used to project the images onto a cube face.

I've been looking for loopholes but it seems that the entire pano world has wrapped their software around the same tech to create and project spherical, tiled, stripped, cubed and equirectangular images. The only way to circumnavigate the patent would be to create an altogether different process and method for projecting our images.

United States Patent Law states that a patent is protected for 20 years. This particular patent (patent 6,754,400) was filed and then granted on June 22 of 2004....so the patent will expire on June 22 of 2024. The Patent law also states that once the patent has expired that the patent holder can still go after infringers for possibly another 6 years depending on the circumstances......so until 2030 :shock: :shock: :shock:

Seems like if any of this is real these sneaky guys waited till the entire planet was using their process before testing the waters and filing an infringement lawsuit on October, 4th 2017 against RTV (Real Tour Vision.....THEY ARE HUGE!) where they won and RTV settled for an undisclosed amount of money. They now pay a licensing fee to protect themselves and all their clients and users. The very bottom of the RTV website reads:

"RTV's user, display and creation of virtual tours is subject to a license agreement from Tour Technology, Inc under U.S. Patent No. 6,754,400."

IVRPA is?/was? attempting to collect $20,000 http://archive.ivrpa.org/patent to request a reexamination of the patent to have patent number 6,754,400 (known as the 400 patent https://patents.google.com/patent/US6754400) overturned. Not sure what ever happened with that cause it is from 2011.

I don't know if anyone else has experience with lawsuits....but I can tell you from personal experience, that even if you win, if the judge does not waive your legal fees or have the plaintiff take care of your legal fees, you are looking at a loss of between $10,000 and $50,000 +. And that's IF you win. Could be exponentially larger if you lose.

If this is a scam then it sure is one helluva scam. It's odd that IVRPA says "A dramatic escalation!! Ice Portal to be the first VR-producer, to be sued in the infamous '400 patent" back in 2011 but the only thing I could find was the RTV lawsuit from 2017?

This all seems a little fishy. I am going to write this Richard Wilson Jr. to see what he has to say......and I don't mean the ttslicensing@gmail.com, but the real one :-)

Nope, it's real....here is what Jason Lavanture from RTV wrote:
Hello friend and IVRPA associates. Seeing the reference about Scott Witte and the link above Joergen really brings about a trip down memory lane! I’m not sure if anyone back here remembers or not, but Scott and I did a webinar together about this. We rallied the RTV troops and encouraged those in our photography network to make a donation to help stop this from spreading. Unfortunately, it could not be stopped and (as I have found) it is very true. After all these years it is still happening throughout the USA. I never thought in a million years it would find its way to me, but as luck would have it, it did.

RTV has been going through a long and painstaking process over the last two years to make sure that the users of our virtual tour software are FULLY protected from this. It was not an easy task but I’m happy to state that we have settled the matter. Our licensing information is on the bottom of our home page in small font. If you like you can read more about said matters here – https://casetext.com/case/tour-tech-sof ... -v-rtv-inc

Because RTV offers both a private labeled virtual tour hosting platform and performs national photography services for many large hotel brands, apartments, and medical facilities it was vital for us to get adequate licensing to not only cover new and existing photographers but to also cover each and every virtual tour production that we create for our national photography clients.

To my knowledge, we are the first and only virtual tour hosting platform to have virtual tour patent protection and licensing spread to new and existing photographers. I’m sure there will be many more as time goes on, but at least for RTV the issue is behind us. If anyone has any questions please feel free to give me a call 231-932-1586.

Should any of you out there currently using the RTV system get a letter like this simply reply and let them know that you are using RTV. Have them refer to the licensing tag on the bottom of our website. Because we allow our photographers to private label our virtual tour hosting system, Mr. Wilson and his team will likely not be able to tell that you are using our virtual tour software. It has come up a couple times now, and we can give you a stock letter to send to them if you need it.

Blue Skies,

Jason
I did a quick reverse search on the phone number provided above....it is definitely Jason Lavanture https://www.whitepages.com/phone/1-231-932-1586
Last edited by 1uv3 on Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:26 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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CLeary
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Thu Oct 10, 2019 1:55 pm

Thanks for your response 1uv3

I really can't afford a lawyer to sort this out for me so I probably will put a hold on any of my 360 work. I'm kind of surprise this guy is coming after me, I'm such a small player in this arena.

I'm wondering if all my tours on Google maps are affected by this lawsuit? If I'm understanding all this correctly, it's not the act of taking or making a 360 picture, its how you display it - right?

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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:09 pm

Yeah, from what I can tell (could be a little off), but the patent basically covers from the time you put it into the stitcher (lemme dig further on that) till the time you project it onto the cube face. Anything before that is good to go. Crazy. I think I'm just going to by the license.....HOWEVER, I want to talk to Wilson before I attempt to do anything. This is nucking futz.
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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:16 pm

Yes, even the stitching is covered in the patent.
3. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the step of assembling the images in the digital format includes the step of removing a demarcation line between the images in the digital format by averaging color and brightness characteristics between the images in the digital format.

4. The method as recited in claim 1, wherein the step of assembling the images in the digital format includes the step of removing a demarcation line between the images in the digital format by employing an error function between pixels of the images.
I'm really not sure how they can be so general in description and still have a binding patent. There is a million ways to engineer the software and a million more different algorithms that can be used to render and get the final stitched image.
Last edited by 1uv3 on Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:38 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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soulbrother
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by soulbrother » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:36 pm

Just some thoughts:
1. when and by whom this technology was developed?
2. when was it published and when was it considered as "established" in the sense of Prior Art?
3. if all this had already been done before the patent was granted, then the patent would not be tenable??
4. The really big users (Google, etc): Have they already purchased licenses or conducted and lost processes?

CLeary
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:43 pm

Yeah this is the type of discussion and questions that requires a lawyers input or knowledge of.

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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:45 pm

soulbrother wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:36 pm

1. when and by whom this technology was developed?
http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Pars ... /6,754,400
2. when was it published and when was it considered as "established" in the sense of Prior Art?
https://patents.google.com/patent/US6754400 And also Jason Lavanture attempted to invoke the Prior Art stance in order to have the patent overturned. That was years ago and they lost.
3. if all this had already been done before the patent was granted, then the patent would not be tenable??
Succesfully won lawsuit against RTV
4. The really big users (Google, etc): Have they already purchased licenses or conducted and lost processes?
No Idea :-)
Last edited by 1uv3 on Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:57 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:51 pm

CLeary wrote:
Thu Oct 10, 2019 2:43 pm
Yeah this is the type of discussion and questions that requires a lawyers input or knowledge of.
Yeah I feel you....but we should keep in mind....unless there is a huge conspiracy going on between Technology Software, Inc and Real Tour Vision, then RTV lost a lawsuit......they had the money to see the case through AND they paid an undisclosed amount of money for infringement along with purchasing licenses to cover their entire company.

Point being.....Technology Software, Inc won that case. Typically judges will not rule differently once precedent for a case has been set.
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1uv3
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by 1uv3 » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:01 pm

I guess we just keep on keeping on until each of us receive our own delightful little letter?

So with that said.......Hopefully these guys aren't here in the forums waiting to pick us off one by one as we drop our names and websites for them to find :lol: :cry: :shock:

Nobody say my name any more :lol: :lol: :lol:
Last edited by 1uv3 on Sat Oct 12, 2019 11:28 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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CLeary
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Re: 360 tour lawsuit

Post by CLeary » Thu Oct 10, 2019 3:02 pm

This could get real messy! So companies like PTGUI and even our beloved Garden Gnome has sold us software that infringes on a patent? I don't get it. Where's Hopki?

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