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Vizio Continues Patent Battle With Funai

Irvine, Calif. — Responding to news this week that Funai Electric had won a favorable preliminary ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in a patent dispute with 14 companies, one of them, Vizio, vowed to continue to fight the action.

The commission is expected to issue a recommended remedy by Dec. 1, with a final determination completed by the end of March 2009.

If the commission fully supports Funai’s claims, they could order suspension of the importation of offending products. Most companies are, however, expected to reach a settlement with Funai on royalty or licensing fees. Since filing the complaint Funai has reached a settlement with Polaroid and two other companies.

In a statement, Vizio pointed out that Funai’s complaint, which was filed a year ago, had accused the 14 manufacturers of infringing 27 claims in two United States Patents (No. 5,329,369 and No. 6,115,074).

“Of the 27 claims, Funai Electronic has, since filing, voluntarily withdrawn 19 of the claims,” Vizio said.

Vizio VP general counsel Robert Ranucci said, “The administrative law judge found all five asserted claims of the ’369 patent to be invalid. With respect to the ’074 patent, three of the asserted claims were found to be infringed and not invalid,” he added.

However, in a related matter, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently issued a preliminary “Office Action” that found all of the claims in the ’074 patent to be invalid.

“Based in part on the recent Office Action from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, we plan to petition the commission to review the initial decision on the ’074 patent, and we are considering taking other appropriate measures,” Ranucci said. “The initial determination by the administrative law judge is preliminary, it is not final, and we believe that upon review, the commission should find the ’074 patent to be invalid and should find that the Vizio models at issue in this investigation do not infringe the asserted claims of the ’074 patent,” added Ranucci.

The initial determination will not result in monetary damages against Vizio, since monetary damages are not available in an ITC investigation, Vizio said.

“We are pleased that the majority of the claims have been either withdrawn or deemed invalid. It is Vizio’s policy to respect the rights of intellectual property, thoroughly investigate all claims, and vigorously defend our legal rights when we feel a claim is invalid or not infringed. Unfortunately, we are not immune to lawsuits and we will defend as appropriate at all times,” stated Laynie Newsome, Vizio co-founder/sales and marketing communications VP.