ITC releases public opinion on Garmin appeal

The U.S International Trade Commission (ITC) released its public opinion this week to the Federal Appeals Court on an appeal filed by Garmin in its dispute with Navico.

In December 2015, Navico said the ITC ruled that Garmin DownVu scanning sonar products violate Navico’s patents for DownScan Imaging Technology. Garmin released a service bulletin in response stating the company would appeal. On Aug. 18, Navico stated the ITC had ruled that Garmin DownVu may not be imported in the U.S. because they violate Navico’s patents. Garmin disagreed with Navico’s assessment and released its own statement in response.

The ITC’s public opinion comments on Garmin’s appeal but does not issue any new rulings. Carly Hysell, a spokeswoman for Garmin, said it expects a decision on its appeal by early 2017.

According to the ITC’s statement, “As set forth in that opposition, Garmin treated the Commission’s exclusion order like a nuisance: instead of importing certain infringing sonar systems, it imported each system by separating the components into two plastic bags (to circumvent the exclusion order), put those two bags in the same box in the United States, and sold the infringing boxed systems after importation.

“When the Commission put an end to Garmin’s charade and clarified that its exclusion order covered Garmin’s importation of the components separately for their combined sale after importation, Garmin brought this appeal.”

In its opinion on Garmin’s motion, the ITC said: “As set forth in the Commission’s opposition to the stay, Garmin’s motion for a stay is unusually weak. Its argument concerning its irreparable harm is limited to four sentences, its factual assertions of harm are vague and unsupported, and its legal authority is either inapposite or has been abrogated by the Supreme Court.

“Garmin did not argue that Customs has excluded any of its products from entry, nor has Garmin availed itself of the numerous avenues for obtaining decisions from the Commission or from Customs about any of its allegedly non-infringing redesigns.”

Hysell said the ITC argument also says the ITC did not rule on the tilted redesign (Navico stated Garmin’s redesign was deemed infringing).

“There is nothing in the orders about a “tilted redesign,” much less that the Commission “modified its original orders to exclude the tilted redesign.” Stay Mot. 1-2. As Garmin acknowledges, its tilted redesign “was not and could not have been adjudicated in the” Commission investigation. id. at 1; see Appx10 n.5.”

Garmin also said the ITC argument confirmed its position that standalone products are fine: “Components of Infringing Products Are Subject to Exclusion, While “Standalone” Components Are Permitted Entry,” and Garmin asserts its original press release is 100 percent accurate.

The full public opinion from the ITC can be found here and here.

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