David Monroe has over four decades experience in the commercial and government electronics business and is the inventor on more than 50 patents, including the cell phone camera. He pioneered wireless video transmission including circuitry, encryption techniques, and compression algorithms. Based in San Antonio, Texas, he is the founder and president of The Telesis Group, Inc., e-Watch Corporation and e-Watch, Inc. of Texas, as well as founder of the San Antonio Museum of Science and Technology (SAMSAT).
While in college, he interned at Computer Terminal Corporation, which became Datapoint Corporation, the company credited by some tech historians with the invention of the personal computer, the Datapoint 2200.
During his career, he has been instrumental in breakthrough technologies and innovation. He contributed to the evolution of the PC and Microprocessor Technology, as well as pioneered Desktop Video Teleconferencing, Image Sensors, Government Tactical Imaging Systems & Communications and Cellphone Image Transmission.
Ever the industrious innovator, he developed his curiosity for technology at a young age. “If you’d ask my mother, she would have said since before I knew how to walk,” he noted. “She has pictures of me playing with extension cords and light bulbs when I was really young. I was attracted to tech before I knew what engineering and patents even were.”
The first company he founded was PhotoTelesis Corp. which later pivoted to a spinoff company focusing on digital security systems – E-Watch. In 1983, he founded Image Data Corporation where he invented and produced the Photophone. This revolutionary, at the time, device transmitted photographic images over a standard dial-up telephone line. That device became the predecessor of the camera cell phone he invented in the 1990’s at PhotoTelesis. Of that accomplishment he points out, “The first Photophone prototype was a Sony TV set we modified on my kitchen counter.”
Of his work as an innovator, he says, “I don’t think inventions in terms of pride, I think in terms of fun.”
And, he has had plenty of that.
Unfortunately, he has also experienced struggles and extreme disappointment at the hands of the unscrupulous companies and Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), a division of the very government organization that was created to protect inventors and their patents, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Our Founders were clear when they wrote Article I, § 8, Clause 8 of our U.S. Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” They knew innovation would be a cornerstone of America’s growth and prosperity. And, they were right.
While certain things have changed since The Patent Act of 1790 was enacted, in full alignment with Clause 8, the most drastic mistake has been the passage of the innocent sounding America Invents Act of 2011 (AIA), the legislation that established the PTAB.
Basically, an independent inventor or a small business innovator that creates truly disruptive products or technology can be assured their patents will be infringed upon, even outright stolen. Then, in an attempt to stop the perpetrators, the inventor will be hit with one of more Inter Partes Reviews, or attempts to invalidate (revoke) the original patent. An IPR can present a challenge upon each and every claim made in a disputed patent.
Based on his experience, David believes PTAB and the AIA have drastically altered the rules of innovation and the patent system outlined by our founders.
His companies have experienced 28 IPR’s filed against his patents. As many as 12 IPR’s have been filed against one patent alone, and 8 against another. One IPR was threatened by a university professor operating through a shell company, basically demanding ransom to prevent his filing of the IPR.
And the patent invalidations against him started to occur.
“With one of my patents, they saw a patent application that was missing a sentence or something,” David said. “And somehow it was counted against me. So, I was my own worst enemy on that one.”
What has occurred is heartbreaking. Basically, his company and hard-won innovations were literally being erased by PTAB decisions. “It was kinda like quicksand,” David said. “I mean, I had one of my camera cell phone patents invalidated because they said my own invention was prior art.”
His own invention had been the prior art that invalidated another of his patents. It does not get much more insane than that.
What is interesting (and quite frightening) to note is that the highly trained examiners who grant patents only do so after exhaustive investigation and research, ranging anywhere from a year to a decade. However, when the Administrative Patent Judges (APJs), who are not real judges and possess no real examiner qualifications, invalidate a patent their decision basically declares the examiner wrong for issuing the patent.
Since inception of the PTAB, the APJs have invalidated 84% of the 3,000 patents they have reviewed.
“The AIA and the creation of the PTAB has created a new Government bureaucracy and increased dispute resolution costs,” David wrote in a direct letter to Congress. “This is an explicit advantage to large businesses over small, and as a side effect, an advantage to foreign businesses over domestic. It took away any review by my peers, and my testimony in the process was essentially eliminated due to the PTAB procedures.”
“The current burdens of the U.S. patent system have nearly eliminated my small companies and the ability to continue to innovate and protect the intellectual property we develop,” he further stated.
Photos of David Monroe on this page, the Home page and Inventors page by Scott Ball.