Though the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that a patent dispute between two phone technology companies should be decided in arbitration, an appeals court said it’s not so. The dispute between InterDigital Communications Corp and LG concerns patent disputes over 3G products – wireless technology – and the case has been going back and forth between courts. One major contention is whether the U.S. Federal Circuit Court of Appeals had the right to say anything about the ITC and its ruling that the dispute be decided in arbitration. LG and the ITC say it has no jurisdiction to hear the case, but the Federal Circuit court disagrees, and has won the day on that account: the dispute about clauses in their agreement will instead be held again, and by ITC.
Why the ITC? InterDigital may prefer such a venue because they can block imports of infringing products to the U.S. That has been a tactic of InterDigital as they have taken on several companies for patent disputes, including Nokia Inc, who has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court that as a foreign company they should not have to appear before the ITC. The Supreme Court has not decided whether they will hear this case.
Circuit Judge Sharon Prost wrote for the majority that LG and ITC were “overly restrictive” in their view of the appellate court’s jurisdiction, as reported by Reuters. She also claimed that the ITC judge had ended proceedings without assessing if LG’s claim for license arbitration “was at least plausible,” and instead found that LG’s assertion was “wholly groundless” because the clause did not apply to the technology in question.
The tactic seems to be stacking the courts against each other, only to send the case back to ITC to get them to do their job right.
This case is InterDigital Communications v. International Trade Commission, U.S. Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit, No. 12-1628.