Liberty Ammunition has won more than $15 million in a patent infringement lawsuit against the federal government

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.

Founded by Manatee County resident and inventor P.J. Marx, Liberty Ammunition produces ammunition for the U.S. military and foreign militaries allies and markets personal defense and hunting rounds through a small number of distributors and dealers. It also sells law enforcement ammunition.

Liberty CEO George Phillips welcomed the judge’s decision.

“We feel we’re totally vindicated that PJ Marx is the inventor of the enhanced performance round and that the court was absolutely clear in its decision,” he told the Bradenton Herald.

The government has until Feb. 19 to appeal Lettow’s decision.

According to the narrative in court documents, the Army had been working to develop lead-free ammunition since 1995 in an effort to cut down on lead pollution where the Army’s bullets are used. Traditional bullets are constructed with lead cores.

The Army and its ammunition developers made several unsuccessful attempts. Lead-free bullets taken into combat in the 1990s failed in many instances to incapacitate opposing combatants, passing through their bodies without fragmenting into shrapnel as designed. Post-combat reports cited in court documents said those combatants were often able to return fire after being shot.

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