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Pioneer Loses Bid to Block U.S. Imports of Garmin GPS Gear

Pioneer Corp. lost its bid to block imports of Garmin Ltd.’s global-positioning system devices in a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that may limit future patent disputes at the agency.

The ITC said today Garmin isn’t violating Pioneer’s patent rights because Pioneer didn’t fulfill legal requirements of having a domestic industry for the underlying technology, which relates to how data may be stored, retrieved or displayed on GPS devices. The ITC is a quasi-judicial agency in Washington set up to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices.

The commission looked at whether Pioneer, a Japanese maker of car-navigation and audio equipment, may use a portfolio licensing program as proof of a market when only one or two patents in the portfolio were being asserted.

Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and Cisco Systems Inc. supported Garmin by calling on a limit to ITC cases in which the patent owner doesn’t make a product. The ITC’s reasoning in today’s ruling won’t be made public until Pioneer and Garmin can redact confidential information.

Federal law lets inventors and companies that only license their patents file trade complaints with the ITC. Google, HP and Cisco argued that those patent owners should be forced to prove that their licensing programs relate to promoting products in the market, not just extracting royalty payments.

Honeywell Settlement

A broad interpretation of licensing as an industry “rewards financial speculation and mere patent ownership over the kind of jobs the statute was meant to protect and upon which this country’s future will depend,” the three technology companies said in a May 24 filing with the agency.

Pioneer filed the complaint in 2009, claiming that Schaffhausen, Switzerland-based Garmin and Honeywell International Inc. were infringing patents related to GPS and automobile-multimedia devices. Honeywell later settled the case.

The case is In the Matter of Certain Multimedia Display and Navigation Devices and Systems, 337-694.

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