Liberty Ammunition Wins Patent Case Against DoD. Will be paid 1.4c for each bullet made + $15 million

The lead-free M855A1 5.56mm cartridge.

The lead-free M855A1 5.56mm cartridge.

Bradenton Post reports that Liberty Ammunition has won a major victory in a patent lawsuit against the DoD.

Liberty Ammunition filed suit against the Department of Defense in 2011, claiming that the Department of the Army used Liberty’s trade secrets to produce “enhanced performance rounds” for military rifles that were nearly identical to a bullet Liberty patented. The Army has been using lead-free bullets for several years produced by other manufacturers working under military contract.

U.S. Federal Court of Claims Judge Charles F. Lettow filed a decision Dec. 19 in which he found the federal government had infringed on Liberty’s patent for its copper-core, steel-tipped ammunition. Lettow ordered the government to pay two levels of damages, the first being a $15.6 million lump payment. The government

was also ordered to pay a 1.4-cent royalty on every bullet it purchases and receives for use. It will make those payments until Liberty’s patent expires in 2027.

Bennet Langlotz, the gun patent attorney who emailed me this story, gave me permission to publish what he wrote to me …

This shows to the surprise of many people that you can sue the federal government, even the military, for patent infringement. And win. This is an important fact because many firearms innovators are investing in developing new designs with the motivation of selling to the military. If the military could buy knock-offs from others, there’d be little reason for anyone to develop new designs that can strengthen our nation defense. Imagine if John Browning wasn’t justly paid by the government for his important early designs. Does anyone believe he could have afforded to continue development of later important designs?



Steve Johnson

Founder and Dictator-In-Chief of TFB. A passionate gun owner, a shooting enthusiast and totally tacti-uncool. Favorite first date location: any gun range. Steve can be contacted here.


Advertisement

  • marathag

    Cha-Ching!

  • JSmath

    Huh. Trade secrets, not patents, on steel tipped copper core ammo? Sounds like bullshit to me, but the law’s dealings and comprehension of anything technical is mostly laughable.

    • Jim_Macklin

      A patent describes the “thing” another patent might describe the machines and dies needed but some details might be trade secrets such as the composition of sintered steel or the exact chemistry of the copper.
      The Pentagon no doubt demanded such details and then shared those with other suppliers.

  • Mazryonh

    I remember reading an older article outlining what it claimed were many serious flaws with the M855A1 round, including how it was a breach of patent. At the time I didn’t bother to find out the details behind the lawsuit. Now I wonder how much more of that article’s claims about the M855A1 round will also turn out to be true.

    • If it’s the G&A article, then not much else.

      • Mazryonh

        How about what it said regarding battering of weapons that weren’t reinforced to handle the increased pressure of the round? Or the claim that the 5.5 MOA accuracy standard was what was initially used for QC on the M855A1? Have those been fixed by now?

    • Joshua

      Mostly none.

  • Here’s the patent.

    I’m very suspicious, look at the application date: 2011. M855A1 began fielding in 2010. I’m not a patent attorney, but that’s… Worrisome.

    Maybe I’m reading too much into the patent application date; they did win the lawsuit, after all.

    • Joshua

      Looking at the drawings of the patent the design they drew is pretty different from M855A1. I wonder if whoever holds the patent for an all copper bullet could sue every company using an all copper bullet?

    • The M855A1’s use of two cores in a reverse drawn jacket with the forward core exposed is hardly new art. One could point to Gunther Voss’ designs for CETME during the 1950s for non-lead cores, and even further back to Remington’s Bronze Point if one is willing to include a lead core. UMC was working on the latter concept nearly a century ago.

    • mzungu

      I am a little confused too, because Trade Secret and Patent are two very different thing..

  • USMC03Vet

    Sweet more debt!

    Who’s going to jail for this? Nobody? Nice!

    • gunslinger

      you got the cash, you don’t go to jail

    • Grindstone50k

      Jail is for the poor and the non-whites, silly.

      • kingghidorah

        Been to one lately? The population of ‘poor and the non-white’ murders are right where they belong.

        • Grindstone50k

          And the population of poor and non-white, non-violent criminals? Check out the statistics. Minorities are incarcerated for simple pot possession at a higher rate than whites, even though actual pot possession is the same rate.

          • kingghidorah

            You watch way to many movies. And here we go with the ‘pot’. The ‘poor and the non-whites’ have tons of priors to put them behind bars. The ‘poor and non-whites’ simply commit more crimes.- mostly to themselves! The only thing the ‘poor and non-white’ have to fear are other ‘poor and non-whites’!!

          • Grindstone50k

            A simple search will show you the data. Your hyperbolic statements reveal your own bias, or at best, ignorance.

          • kingghidorah

            ‘a simple search’? You sit behind a keyboard and tell me what the reality is? I work in a jail. Come and visit one sometime, and see for yourself who ‘the poor and non-white’ are.

          • Grindstone50k

            So what you’re saying is that you DON’T know the data and instead rely on your very limited personal anecdote. Thanks for explaining your ignorance.

          • kingghidorah

            Your ignorance is in question, not mine. I can you show ‘data’ that refutes your ‘data’.

          • Grindstone50k

            Then why didn’t you present it in the first place instead of bullsh!tting?

          • steveday72

            …and Al Capone was finally caught for Tax fraud.

  • Blake

    Hopefully a positive outcome of this could be that the military stops using copper-wasting lead-free bullets.

    • In what way would you change the design to retain its positive characteristics but eliminate copper? Keep in mind, a whole host of other alloys were tried during the development program and were found wanting in different ways. Also keep in mind that lead does not have much going for it as a ballistic material aside from being cheap and dense.

      • Andrew Foss

        TL,DR: cliffnotes: “wrong debate”.

        M193 had excellent performance against unarmored opponents.
        M855 had excellent performance against armored ones, and the reverse is not true.

        But you know what has excellent performance against both? Mortars, Artillery, M67 hand grenades, M80 ball, 25mm HEI-T, 30MM, .50BMG and 40mm HEDP.

        As a ground pounder, even I know that you’re far less likely to buy it from an individual weapon in a high-intensity conflict than you are from bombs, shells, rockets, GPMGs and HMGs. Debating caliber or ammunition composition for individual weapons is like debating whether or not you should have gold plated connectors for a digital data cable. It misses the point: it’s not a debate that has any bearing on reality.

        Rather, the debate should be whether or not our ROE is too restrictive. (Really? Really? Really, getting a Brigade commander’s permission to employ indirect fires? Guy’s on a FOB All he knows about “out in sector” is that it’s the place where the food is tasty if you don’t care about amoebic dysentery, so he should ban eating of it so his OER bullets don’t look bad. A mortar section attached at the company, battery or troop level ought to be the CO’s personal shotgun, able to be loaned out to the Platoon Leaders if they ask nicely, same as how MLRS are that same Brigade commander’s personal shotgun, able to be loaned out to squadron or battalion commanders if they ask nicely.) I believe it is.

        We’re way too focused on “what do we do once we’re done hurting people and breaking things” at the expense of accomplishing the mission. Our military should be a deterrent: “Leave us alone or we’ll f**k you up and leave you for dead with no f**ks given. Did you see what we did to East Goatlovistan ten years ago? We hear they’re going to finally be able to deliver water and power after we flattened their infrastructure from the air and sent engineers in with half of a truckload of C4 and thermite per person to make sure the job got done right. You don’t want that. We don’t want to do it, but we will if we have to.”

        • That is rather a different subject, though. Wouldn’t it also be good to have better ROE and a superior projectile design?

          And anyway, M855 has very similar terminal performance against soft targets as M193. Why wouldn’t it? It uses the same jacket material and thickness, the same lead core, and is fired at nearly the same velocity.

          • superflex

            You lost me on the “same lead core” bit.
            M885 is lead free.

          • Raven

            A1 is lead-free, the original M855/SS109 had a combination mild steel forward and lead rear core.

          • Raven

            Barrel twist, for one thing. Rifles designed for M855 have a very tight rifling twist compared to the original M193 spec (1:7 as opposed to 1:12, or 1:14 if you really go back) because the M855/SS109 family use an extremely long bullet in tracer loads. The M193 was also lacking the mild steel tip of the M855 series.

            Then there’s the velocity difference, which has more to do with barrel length. The 5.56mm in the original AR-15 ran at 3300fps out of a 20-inch barrel, and fragmented like hell. M855 is used more commonly in a 14.5″ barrel, at around 2700-2900fps. Performance degrades even more as you go shorter, hence why things like the 77-grain OTM are coming into use.

          • Andrew Foss

            It doesn’t have to be better than what is current, it only has to be better than our enemy.

            And if you believe 855 and 193 perform the same between the SAW, carbines and rifles, I’ve got a bridge to sell you.

            The forward-drawn jacketed, 55gr M193 is the gold standard out of a 20″ barrel. Out of a 14.5″ barrel, the projectile works. But M855 isn’t 55gr, it’s 62gr. The round needs a higher velocity (more powder and consequently, chamber pressure) to do its thing, which it doesn’t because this beats up the carbines, SAWs and rifles. (Ammo commonality.) Now we see the reverse-drawn jacketed M855A1, where it weighs the same as M855, but it’s got a higher velocity to bring it back to the M193 performance standard.

            But it will beat weapons to hell. Needlessly. Issue M193, where it tumbles like you’d expect rather than leave a .224 hole in your target like M855 has ever since it was issued. If we fight an actual war with an actual country that actually cares about its soldiers, we can issue M855 and have everyone rezero. Problem solved, no need to beat up the weapons, costing all of us more in tax dollars.

            Now as to the meat of the article since I’m seeing a pair of complaints, you’re all missing something here: M855 is a NATO standard. (It’s called SS109.) Either we’re moving to something that NATO isn’t or the government has leaked it to our allies. (Oops. guess we’ll all be paying Liberty ammunition even more when word gets back to them when/if the NATO militaries are eating the same fruit of the poisoned tree.)

        • Grindstone50k

          So… about that lawsuit…

  • Renegade

    Not bad for a company that tried to rip off Microsoft by selling Halo Point ammunition. The name Halo, the same font, the same color scheme on the box, all without permission.

    • Sam Schifo

      Not to mention the ammunition formerly known as Halo Point sucks too.

  • John Bear Ross

    Either way, that’s a hell of a payday.

    Best,
    JBR

  • uisconfruzed

    Or they could just purchased them from Liberty

    • I highly doubt Liberty could even come close to meeting the production requirements for M855A1 projectiles for the military.

      • uisconfruzed

        They can probably add on after that law suit.

  • me ohmy

    SOMEBODY needs to go to jail for costing the US public more for lack of understanding DON’T STEAL a persons property and intellectual property.. that said.. good on ya liberty for calling them on this BS

  • Guest

    Good for Liberty. As part of the technology disclosure, the .gov agreed to keep Liberty’s trade secrets…well, secret. Apparently they violated that agreement, and Liberty got damages. Most likely this is a breach of contract suit, so those damages aren’t punitive, just what they would have made had the DoD not breached the contract. Sounds pretty cut and dry from a legal perspective.

    • JSmath

      I didn’t follow the development of M855A1, but if Liberty did specifically disclose information to the military under the premise of discretion and trust, then by all means, good for Liberty.

  • JSmath

    You and Jim both could be the ones who failed at reading comprehension, though I admit I could have phrased my annoyance more clearly: The specific idea of a trade secret on steel tipped copper core ammo honestly seems like bullshit, as historically, work with steel tipped alloy-based projectiles is several decades old, going back as far as the 1940s spurred on by the WWII (to MY knowledge, it could very be further back). I would be willing to bet that whatever supposed trade secret the DoD/govment infringed upon was directly derived and specifically even indistinguishable from previous research that’s been published and circulating for as long as most of the readers of TFB have been alive.

    An alternate example: Say it’s the early 2000’s (not 80’s or 90’s, for the exact reason listed above – this technology would have been around for a while) and Microsoft sues someone back in the day for someone else creating an OS with a GUI. Yes, Windows was a breakthrough in OSs featuring a GUI, but without clear indication that the trades secrets of Windows were reverse-engineered and infringed, I remain extremely skeptical of the legitimacy of this claim. All that’s equivalently known is, “Well, hey look, it’s a Graphical User Interface, which is extremely technical stuff, so obviously, they stole the design.”

    Time and again, I’ve seen lawsuits over engineering rarely ever have anything to do with legitimate claims of intellectual property and moreso over what the judge or judge’s friends and associates stand to gain from the ruling.

  • JSmath

    In the whiniest mock voice I can muster: “B-b-b-b-but the Geneva Convention. W-w-w-we don’t wanna be c-c-CRUEL during war.”

  • Doom

    Holy hell, 1.4 cents per bullet?????????? Talk about hitting the freaking jack pot wow, I wonder how many millions of rounds are made every month/ year…

  • jeff k

    wow the dod got a slap on the wrist. 15 million .yah, thats pennies when the defense budget is over 550 billion ..yes billion at least it prob helped liberty ammo some

  • TXgnnr

    That’s because it’s not the DoD’s money. Its ours. Too bad the people at the DoD that made this move to infringe upon the patent don’t have to pay out of their own pockets. If that were the case, things like this probably wouldn’t happen. But then the people that run our government and government agencies are above it all anyway so it is no skin off their noses.

    • BR549

      SOMEONE in the DoD had to submit this for production approval. They had to know. It is no accident. Whoever that person was is guilty of blatant patent infringement and that person sidestepped existing law to benefit their own career. That had to be more than one person involved.

      Whether it was a commission, a raise, or just a gold star on their resume, that behavior in the private sector would have landed you and I owing a lot of money. So, the big question is …… who in government is going to subrogate that ruling and go after that person’s assets? I’m not seeing any show of hands.

      If people in government were forced to be accountable, this country wouldn’t be in the mess it’s in. Just watch how fast this whole thing gets whisked under the rug.

  • Robert Kalani Foxworthy

    To be fair darpa delevoped the early concept of this in the 80. Really liberty arms just patent trolled the dod in some ways.

  • J.T.

    Strangely, no.

    The original Scorpion pattern was made under contract back in 2002 by Crye Precision for a program called “Objective Force Warrior” and the Army owned the design. Crye made some changes on their own and made MultiCam for the Universal Camouflage Trials (which the Army disregarded and adopted UCP instead.).

    In 2009, with a near universal dislike of the UCP by troops overseas, the Army Natick Labs dusted off the old Scorpion camo they owned the licensing for and went to work improving it, eventually creating Scorpion W2. In the mean time, troops in Afghanistan were given MultiCam uniforms as a stopgap measure until a new camo pattern could be selected.

    In 2010, the selection process was started, Scorpion W2 and Multicam competed against each other and both ended up in the group of 5 finalists. Of the 5, the Army initially withdrew Scorpion W2 in order to go with an outside designed pattern.

    However, in 2014, the NDAA for that year prohibited the selection of a new uniform that was not already in inventory before it’s passing unless all services changed to it, ruling out all other outside patterns other than MultiCam or a pattern in use by another service. The Army still wanted new camo so they decided to go with MultiCam. However the Army and Crye could not agree on a deal in regards to printing and licensing fees (possibly because Crye considered themselves to be in a strong position where they had no viable competition). Because no decision could be reached, the Army went with their own Scorpion W2 instead since it was considered in inventory before the NDAA passed.