ITC Patent Docket Update: More Section 337 Complaints that Don’t Belong at a Trade Agency
Vehicle Control Systems, Vehicles Containing the Same, and Components Thereof
The ITC received a new Section 337 complaint on November 19 from Jaguar Land Rover. The British automaker is asserting a patent that describes a system for switching between different off-road drive modes and is seeking to block imports of certain car models by four European competitors: Audi, Lamborghini, Porsche, and Volkswagen. The patent expires in 2023.
As a foreign company selling cars designed and manufactured abroad, Jaguar Land Rover does not meet any common-sense definition of “domestic industry.” They are nevertheless arguing in their complaint that U.S.-based sales and service operations entitle them to trade relief under Section 337. The agency has allowed similar arguments in the past.
Cloud-Connected Wood-Pellet Grills and Components Thereof
Wood pellet grill maker Traeger filed a complaint on November 24 against competitor Green Mountain Grills. Although the complainant is seeking to block imported grills, the asserted patents do not describe grills at all but are actually about controlling a grill over the internet with a mobile app. One of the two patents is titled “Cloud system for controlling outdoor grill with mobile application” and the other is titled “Mobile application for controlling outdoor grill.”
Similar to the recently settled investigations involving Comcast cable boxes, the accused grills in this case cannot infringe the asserted patents. Instead, the respondent is accused of indirectly infringing the patents by providing its customers with an online service. That services operates in conjunction with imported grills, but blocking those imports is a thoroughly arbitrary remedy for the purely domestic alleged infringement.
Considering that Traeger has also filed an infringement lawsuit in federal district court, there is simply no sound policy justification for allowing a trade agency to adjudicate and remedy this dispute.