Hidden Image Technology Solutions v. Thomas L. Barnhart

U.S. District Court, Northern District of Georgia

Case No. 11-cv-02415, Filed July 22, 2011

Hidden Image Technology Solutions, a Georgia company, has sued Thomas Barnhart asserting that he falsely promotes himself as the sole inventor of several patents, and has profited from this false promotion. The lawsuit seeks to remove Barnhart as an inventor of those patents, and to instate his co-inventor, Joel Brooks, as the sole inventor of the patents. The patents in question are:

6,296,900: “Method of making hidden image game piece.” Granted 10/2/2001.

5,984,367: “Hidden image game piece.” Granted 11/16/1999.

7,747,472: “Hidden image game piece.” Granted 6/29/2010.

6,629,888: “Hidden image game piece.” Granted 10/7/2003.These are physical game patents, consisting of printed pieces, that when held against pre-programmed colors on a television or computer screen, reveal hidden messages. The first use of this patent by Brooks, in the early 1990s, was for a hidden printed message distributed in newspapers, called the “Red Reveal Game Piece.” When held against a red part of the screen set to appear during a Dallas Cowboys football game, the game piece would reveal a hidden message or advertisement. The idea garnered interest from television outlets like MSNBC, and Brooks also worked to adjust the invention to the growing opportunity of the internet. Brooks developed a WebDecoder® based on the patents above, and shared his idea for marketing it with Barnhart. According to Hidden Image’s complaint, Barnhart cajoled himself into the position of co-inventor of these patents by convincing Brooks that this was necessary for Brooks’ own “protection.” In reality, according to Hidden Image, Barnhart was not an inventor of the patents, and Brooks was the true sole inventor.

The complaint alleges that Barnhart not only forced his way into the co-inventor position on three of the patents, but without Brooks’ knowing, he had himself listed as the sole inventor of the ‘888 patent. Barnhart also attempted to license these patents giving Brooks only 10% of the royalties. Brooks in 2003 licensed his rights, title and interest in these patents to a subsidiary of Hidden Images. Hidden Images now seeks to have Barnhart’s name stricken from the records of the USPTO, and to instate Brooks as the sole inventor of all four patents. Hidden Images also seeks an injunction barring Barnhart from using the patents, and to recover damages, profits, and attorney’s fees.

Because this is a physical game patent, we won’t follow this one further. You can learn more about the case filings at PriorSmart.