ITC Receives New "Trade" Complaint from Foreign Licensing Company

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The ITC received a new Section 337 complaint on May 22 from an Ireland-based licensing entity called Neodron. The complaint (Touch-Controlled Mobile Devices, Computers, and Components Thereof) is asserting four patents related to touchscreen technology against several smartphone, tablet, and laptop brands.  Respondents include Amazon, Dell, HP, Lenovo, Microsoft, Motorola, and Samsung—all of whom are also being sued in federal district court.

It looks like Neodron was recently created for the purpose of asserting a portfolio of touchscreen patents granted originally to Silicon Valley-based Atmel and, until three months ago, owned by Microchip Technologies, which acquired Atmel in 2016. To satisfy Section 337’s domestic industry requirement, Neodron plans to rely on third-party Microchip’s U.S.-based operations related to the production of a touchscreen controller.

As with other cases brought by licensing companies, this ITC investigation has nothing to do with preventing unfair import competition or stopping shady foreign infringers.  In fact, an exclusion order would not remedy any harm caused to Neodron, because their goal is to secure royalties from the alleged infringers' U.S. sales.  What they do gain from adding a Section 337 complaint on top of their court case is the rapid adjudication of patent claims by an administrative agency and added leverage in licensing negotiations due to the threat of an exclusion order.  

In other words, it enables them to bypass federal court procedures and remedies without any coherent policy justification.