This Week at the ITC

Since August 30, there have been three new Section 337 complaints filed at the International Trade Commission, bringing the total number of new complaints in 2018 to 37.  There were 63 new investigations filed last year and 55 in 2016.  The current rate of new filings in 2018 puts us on track for a total of about 55 at year's end.  If that happens, the total number of new investigations for 2016-2018 will about 45% higher than the total for the preceding three year period.

Each of the three new cases filed in the last week features one real respondent and supplements an existing lawsuit in district court.

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  • Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

This complaint was filed by Autel and DJI.  The companies are both in the business of selling small, camera-equipped aerial drones to consumers in the United States.  DJI is the largest supplier of consumer drones in the U.S. market, while Autel is a relative newcomer.  The two have been embroiled in litigation in the U.S. for over two years, each suing the other for infringement of various patents.

In this complaint, Autel is asserting three patents against DJI directed to "using sensors to make sure that the UAV stays on the predetermined path," as well as having removable props, and detachable batteries. 

Both Autel and DJI are Chinese companies based in Shenzhen.  Autel's alleged U.S. domestic industry, as outlined in the complaint, seems to consist mostly of marketing and support operations.

 

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  • Sleep-Disordered Breathing Treatment Mask Systems (V)

As global competitors in the market for CPAP machines and masks, ResMed and Fisher & Paykel have been locked in a years long patent dispute, each scoring victories in different courts around the world.  The two companies have also challenged the validity of each other's various patents through inter partes review proceedings at the Patent and Trademark Office.    

This is the fifth ITC complaint filed by ResMed regarding CPAP devices since 2013.  The fourth complaint (filed in August 2016) was also against Fisher & Paykel but was withdrawn prior to trial.  Despite being a U.S.-based company, ResMed faced some difficulty in its last investigation proving the existence of a domestic industry related to the specific products at issue.  Since that time, it appears to have bolstered its case by developing a domestic manufacturing operation for at least one of its CPAP mask products.

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  • Strength-Training Systems

This complaint seems to be part of a fairly straightforward dispute between two California-based companies selling exercise equipment.  The complainant, Hoist Fitness, sued the respondent, TuffStuff, in federal district court for infringement in April 2017, and has now supplemented that litigation with an ITC investigation.  The patents describe various weight lifting machines with moving seats.  

If this investigation proceeds, the existence of a domestic industry is unlikely to be a contentious issue.  Although neither company manufacturers its exercise equipment domestically, they both develop their products in the United States and seem focused entirely on serving the U.S. market.  As Hoist asserts in its complaint, its products "are invented, designed, developed, engineered, prototyped, tested, assembled, displayed, warehoused, sold, and supported at Hoist's facility in Poway, California."