Stop the Funai Business: Vizio Sues Over Patent Infringement

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The ongoing disputes between low-cost television manufacturer Vizio and Japanese manufacturer Funai have entered another phase, this time with Vizio filing suit against Funai, claiming the Japanese maker—”in concert with others”—violates several Vizio patents making high-definition televisions. Vizio is seeking to have a court block importation of Funai flat-screen TVs into the U.S., as well as damages for millions of units in past sales. Funai manufacturers televisions for a number of brands—which Vizio disdainfully describes as “declining market share brand names”—including Philips, Magnavox, Emerson, and Sylvania.

“Unlike Funai, our patent portfolio has not been rejected by the USPTO, we at Vizio respect the rights of intellectual property and we will not stand by while foreign competitors misappropriate our intellectual property,” Said Vizio co-founder and sales VP Laynie Newsome, in a statement.

The move is just the latest broadside in the patent battle between the two companies: the United States Patent and Trademark Office issued a final rejection Funai patents (including the controversial 6,115,074), which is basically the final step towards it being declared invalid. But then the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in favor of Funai, and issued an order blocking Vizio from importing HDTVs into the United States, subject to presidential review.

Vizio continues to import televisions and conduct business during the review, and Vizio recently found itself the top LCD TV maker in the United States, in terms of sales. The company also filed an antitrust and unfair competition suit against Funai back in February, alleging that the company unlawfully monopolized licensing of technology used to process digital television signals.

Industry watchers see the new patent infringement suit as Vizio’s way of continuing to apply pressure on Funai…although Vizio’s future in the U.S. market still seems to hinge on the presidential review of the ITC decision.

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