Ammunition Inventor Wins $15 Million Patent Infringement Case Against Army

By Stew Magnuson
Liberty Ammunition, a small business in Florida, won a $15.6 million judgment against the Army in a patent infringement lawsuit Dec. 19. The company alleged that the service passed on proprietary data and specifications for its lead-free copper-core, steel-tipped bullet technology to other vendors.
In addition to the judgment, the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ordered the Army to pay the Florida-based company a royalty of 1.4 cents for every lead-free bullet it purchases until the company’s patent expires in 2027.
At issue is the Army’s enhanced performance round known as the M855A1.  
According to the 43-page ruling in Liberty Ammunition Inc. v. United States, musician and inventor PJ Marx presented his idea for the enhanced performance incapacitative composite (EPIC) 5.56 mm round to Army officials in 2005 after having them sign a non-disclosure agreement. He later emailed technical and performance data to a Special Operations Command contractor under the understanding that it was proprietary information, the ruling stated.
By that time the Army was in on phase II of its green ammunition program, which was setting out to design a cost-effective, lead-free 5.56 mm round that would also be more lethal than its predecessors, the ruling stated.
Marx filed for a patent in 2005 and it was approved in 2010. During that period, Marx and the company he formed to market the round, Liberty Ammunition, pursued and won a SOCOM Small Business Innovation Research contract worth $90,000 to conduct tests on the EPIC ammunition. Tests were completed by 2007. SOCOM then contracted with Liberty to scale down the round to 4.6 mm.
Meanwhile, the Army in 2010 fielded the M855AI, produced at a government-owned plant, which produced 1 billion rounds of the now standard .22 caliber ammunition through 2013. Liberty said the Army-produced round employed the same steel penetrator, copper slug and reverse copper jacket configuration as the EPIC round. Liberty filed suit in February 2011, claiming that the Army had shared confidential information to potential vendors.
An 11-day trail was held in June. Judge Charles F. Lettrow, in a ruling that was recently unsealed, found that the Army had violated three non-disclosure agreements.
The Army has until Feb. 19 to appeal. An Army spokeswoman said she could not provide immediate comment.
The enhanced performance rounds are produced at the government-owned, contractor operated Lake City Ammunition Plant in Independence, Missouri. ATK currently operates the facility for the government.
A statement provided to National Defense by Liberty Ammunition said: “The company feels that our claims have been totally validated as true by the court’s judgment, and that our inventor, PJ Marx, is the inventor of the technology that makes the enhanced performance rounds work.”
As for the potential value of the 1.4 cents per round royalty, the ruling stated from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2013, the plant produced 1.1 billion enhanced rounds. The amount of rounds produced per year in that period has fluctuated from between 158.6 million per year to 383.3 million per year. The windfall if the ruling stands would be anywhere between $2.2 million to $5.3 million per year.
Marx, in an interview with National Defense, could not comment on the specifics of the ruling. “We’re happy for the result, and I’m happy that I could make a contribution that was helpful,” he said.

Topics: Armaments, Small Arms, Defense Contracting, Defense Contracting

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