DJI, the world’s global leader and largest manufacturer of civilian drones, is apparently under threat of not selling its products within the US. It all started when a smaller rival filed a patent-infringement complaint.
The rival’s name is Autel Robotics USA LLC, and it seems to be challenging the company under official name SZ DJI Technology Co., in a dispute over unmanned vehicles used for aerial photography and videotaping as well as in agriculture. Here, DJI’s most popular drone named the DJI Phantom, is the main topic of the dispute.
DJI Used Autel’s Patented Features in its Drones, the Dispute Says
At this point, it is obvious that Autel Robotics Co. does not want DJI working in the US – and especially not in the fields of aerial photography, monitoring, videotaping and agriculture. According to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), approximately 1.6 million civilian drones will be sold in the US in 2018 alone, which will lead the unmanned aircraft market to $4.4 billion.
Here, Autel’s main clause in the dispute is DJI and the use of patented features for following a flight path while avoiding obstacles, rotor assembly as well as the way to switch out battery packs and minimize lag time between flights – which are all taken from Autel’s patents, as the report reads.
On top of this, Autel wants the US International Trade Commission to ban the imports of DJI drones and the models such as Phantom, Mavic, Spark and Inspire – as they are made in China by DJI.
The complaint filed in Washington on Thursday includes a citation from Paul Brinkman of Kirkland & Ellis in Washington, who is a lawyer specializing in ITC cases but is not involved in this one. He said “If DJI’s big market is the U.S., then this is a big deal for them.”
The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. 1337) in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain unmanned aerial vehicles and components thereof.
The complainant requests that the Commission issue a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order and impose a bond during the 60- day review period pursuant to 19 U. S.C. § 1337(j)
Autel, contends in the complaint that banning DJI from selling drones in the US will “likely improve the competitive conditions” in the market by providing numerous opportunities for others, such as Autel, Yuneec International Co. and Parrot SA.
However, Autel also said that this won’t hurt the choice of customers looking for drones, stating that “consumers would still have a variety of products from which to choose that would be manufactured by Autel and other companies.”
Filing the Complaint Has Just Raised the Stakes for Autel
The complaint filed by Autel with the US trade agency definitely raised the stakes for the company. Right now, it is rare for a federal court to block sales, even when it involves competing products (or services). However, there is the possibility of a ban if the trade commission finds the products infringing US patents.
If the commission issues an import ban, the agency could allow sales to continue for public interests – such as agricultural needs. However, the desires of hobbyists will obviously fall in water.