US Gov’t Rules Vizio Must Stop the Importation of its HDTVs

June 10th, 2009 · No Comments · LCD Flat Panel, LED LCD Flat Panels, Reference Materials

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(June 9, 2009) The US International Trade Commission ruled today Vizio Inc. must stop importing all HDTVs into the USA for continuing to refuse to license patents pertaining to digital TV reception owned by Funai. The initial April 9, 2009 order was delayed by a 60 day presidential review. The office of President Obama ruled today the order remain in effect, thereby halting the importation of all Vizio HDTVs. (The HD Guru submited an inquiry to the ITC,  but did not receive a response prior to publication).

Vizio is currently the number one shipper of LCD flat screen HDTVs into the US, according to the research firm, Displaysearch.

Vizio claims it removed the portions of the chips that violate Funai’s patent and plans to file an appeal of the ITC order today in the US Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit.

Copied below are the relevant portions of Vizio’s press release and information about the ITC obtained from its website.

IRVINE, Calif., June 9 /PRNewswire/ — VIZIO, America’s Largest Shipper of Flat Panel HDTVs, responds today to President Obama’s decision not to overrule the ITC Orders, which determined that certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 6,115,074 (the “’074 patent”) were valid and that certain now obsolete VIZIO television products, no longer shipping and no longer in production, contained a feature that infringe those claims. VIZIO believes that the claims of infringement are meritless because the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (the “PTO”) has issued a Final Rejection order relating to the ’074 patent.

“We at VIZIO deeply respect the rights of intellectual property upheld by the PTO, which does not apply to this claim. Unfortunately, we are not immune to frivolous lawsuits and we reserve the right to defend ourselves of meritless claims at all times. The products involved with this particular claim are obsolete, and no longer in mass production. Therefore we believe this action will not impact our ability to conduct our business in normal fashion,” stated Laynie Newsome, Vice President of Sales and Marketing Communications.

VIZIO intends to move aggressively on all possible avenues to protect its rights. On June 10, 2009, Vizio will appeal the ITC’s determination to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and Vizio believes the Company’s position will be vindicated on appeal. In addition, on June 10, 2009, VIZIO will seek emergency relief from the Federal Circuit to stay the enforcement of the ITC’s Exclusion Order pending appeal. VIZIO has also presented its non-infringing technical solution to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. “We at VIZIO are working with all appropriate U.S. government offices and departments to resolve this matter as quickly as possible,” stated Rob Brinkman, Vice President of Operations and Administration.

In a separate lawsuit filed by VIZIO, it is alleged that Funai has violated the federal Sherman Antitrust Act, the Clayton Act, and numerous provisions of California’s unfair competition and antitrust law by unlawfully and unfairly discriminated against VIZIO in the licensing and enforcement of the ’074 patent, to the detriment of trade and commerce. Funai sought to delay the timely adjudication of these claims and recently a presiding district court judge denied Funai’s motion. Instead, the judge ruled that VIZIO’s antitrust claims should move forward without delay.

VIZIO now produces and distributes televisions designed with a non-infringing technical solution, which excludes the allegedly infringing feature from the chipsets in its television products.

Since the ITC’s limited exclusion order applies only to chipsets that contain the allegedly infringing feature, VIZIO believes their customers will continue to receive a continued supply of VIZIO’s television products.

The USITC

The United States International Trade Commission is an independent, quasijudicial Federal agency with broad investigative responsibilities on matters of trade. The agency investigates the effects of dumped and subsidized imports on domestic industries and conducts global safeguard investigations. The Commission also adjudicates cases involving alleged infringement by imports of intellectual property rights. Through such proceedings, the agency facilitates a rules-based international trading system. The Commission also serves as a Federal resource where trade data and other trade policy-related information are gathered and analyzed. The information and analysis are provided to the President, the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR), and Congress to facilitate the development of sound and informed U.S. trade policy. The Commission makes most of its information and analysis available to the public to promote understanding of international trade issues.

The mission of the Commission is to (1) administer U.S. trade remedy laws within its mandate in a fair and objective manner; (2) provide the President, USTR, and Congress with independent analysis, information, and support on matters of tariffs, international trade, and U.S. competitiveness; and (3) maintain the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTS).

The Commission has five major operations that serve its external customers:

* Import Injury Investigations,

* Intellectual Property-Based Import Investigations,

* Industry and Economic Analysis,

* Tariff and Trade Information Services,

* Trade Policy Support

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