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Weather Service, private firm wrangle over patent

Weather Service, private firm wrangle over patent

Remember those annoying station breaks for tests of the government's Emergency Alert System?

The EAS is the National Weather Service system that warns of inclement weather by issuing a loud buzzing noise through televisions and radios. Well, the EAS has become more than annoying for broadcasters, who could face possible patent infringement lawsuits from a private company, Quad Dimension, which holds the patent.

The company secured a patent for the alert system in 1992 and has been trying to collect royalties from broadcasters ever since, according to Quad Dimension's lobbyist, David Carlin of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld.

Broadcasters are miffed because the Federal Communications Commission requires them to use the EAS. The weather service told the TV and radio industry that the government owned the technology.

Meanwhile, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the weather service maintain that the government developed the technology before Quad Dimension's patent. The two agencies failed in their first attack on the patent, but they want another examination. Carlin calls the latest challenge harassment, and he is concerned that the Patent and Trademark Office is biased against his client. So Carlin is contacting key lawmakers to ensure that the new examination is fair.