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Vizio Waits For Import Ruling

4/13/2009 10:32:00 AM Eastern

Irvine, Calif. — Vizio said that it will continue to import TVs into the United States as it awaits a ruling that it hopes will overturn a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) order Friday blocking imports of Vizio, Proview, AOC and Envision TVs for allegedly infringing patents held by Funai.

The ITC issued the order Friday after reviewing the case won by Funai before an administrative law judge.

To continue importing products, Vizio must now post a bond of $2.50 per set and wait for President Obama to review the ban.

Meanwhile, the patent case is also being reviewed by a U.S. appeals court.

The disputed patent covers methods used by the TVs for tuning off-air broadcasts and program descriptors. Funai acquired the patent from Thomson, and Vizio has charged that Funai is seeking unfair and onerous  licensing terms.

Other impacted companies include Proview International Holdings, which makes Proview TVs, and TPV, which produces Envision and AOC TVs as well as products it assembles under contract to other brands.

A second patent, which was ruled invalid, covers the way a TV controls how the image fits the screen.

Vizio said the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USTPO) is reviewing the infringed patent and has previously rejected it.

Vizio filed an antitrust complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last February over Funai’s alleged “exorbitant” licensing fees on technology required to receive signals broadcast under the nation’s transition to all digital broadcasting.

Vizio said it will continue to ship products despite the ITC’s limited exclusion order because it believes the USTPO and the appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will reverse the underlying decision.

“Based on the recent final rejections by the USPTO of both the ‘369 and ‘074 Funai patents, we believe that the U.S. Court of Appeals will be mindful of the fact and will agree that there are substantial grounds for appeal of the ITC’s ruling,” stated Rob L. Brinkman, Vizio’s operations and administration VP.

“Vizio intends to move and is moving aggressively on all possible avenues to protect its rights. Funai's failure to license its patents on a reasonable and non-discriminatory basis is the subject of a lawsuit in federal district court in California as well as a complaint filed with the FCC, stated Laynie Newsome, Vizio co-founder, sales and marketing communications VP.