Obama Inaction Upholds ITC Ruling For Funai - Twice

Obama Inaction Upholds ITC Ruling For Funai

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Osaka, Japan – Funai Wednesday celebrated President Barack Obama’s failure to overrule a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that value-TV supplier Vizio stop importing televisions that infringe on Funai patents for receiving digital over-the-air TV broadcasts.

Under the Section 337 statute, Obama had a 60-day period, which ended today, in which to overrule the ITC and revise the order and failed to do so.

The ITC issued a final determination and remedy order on April 10, 2009, finding that Vizio and others infringe Funai’s digital television patent (US Patent No. 6,115,074).

The ITC also ruled that 10 other companies and their subsidiaries also violated the Funai patents in television imports.

“Allowing this comment period to expire without change signals that President Obama is in accord with the US patent process and Funai’s achievement at the ITC,” stated Tomonori Hayashi, Funai Electrice president and CEO. “Funai remains committed to respecting the intellectual property rights of others and will continue vigorously protecting its own intellectual property rights against infringers.”

Funai said the following companies are now barred from importing or selling infringing digital television products in the U.S.:

Vizio, Inc., formerly known as V. Inc. (U.S.); AmTRAN Technology (Taiwan); Proview International Holdings (Hong Kong); Proview Technology (Shenzhen); Proview Technology (US); TPV Technology (Hong Kong); TPV International (USA); Top Victory Electronics (Taiwan); Envision Peripherals, Inc. (US); Syntax-Brillian (US); and Taiwan Kolin (Taiwan).

“The digital televisions that are now subject to the ITC’s remedy orders are sold under the following brands: Vizio, Proview, AOC, Ölevia, and Envision, among others,” Funai said.

Vizio responded Wednesday by saying that its TV models that were ruled in violation of the 6,115,074 patent are “now obsolete” and “no longer shipping and no longer in production.”

“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,” according to a company statement.

“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,” stated Laynie Newsome, Vizio sales and marketing communications VP.

“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.”

Vizio said it will continue to fight Funai “on all possible avenues to protect its rights,” including filing an appeal on June 10, 2009, with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

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 said it 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, Vizio operations and administration VP.

Vizio has also filed a separate lawsuit against Funai alleging that the Japanese manufacturer “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 [discriminating] against Vizio in the licensing and enforcement of the '074 patent, to the detriment of trade and commerce.”

Vizio said it 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 company said.

Vizio has also sued Funai and LG Electronics for allegedly infringing patents it holds on the reception of digital QAM cable signals.

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