By Eric Schweibenz
On April 29, 2011, Zenith Electronics LLC of Lincolnshire, Illinois (“Zenith”) filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to Section 337.

The complaint alleges that Sony Corporation of Japan, Sony Corporation of America of New York, New York, and Sony Electronics, Inc. of San Diego, California (collectively, “Sony”) unlawfully import into the U.S., sell for importation, and/or sell within the U.S. after importation certain electronic devices having digital television receivers and components thereof that infringe one or more of U.S. Patent Nos. 5,598,220 (“the ‘220 patent”), 5,629,958 (“the ‘958 patent”) and 5,636,251 (“the ‘251 patent”) (collectively, the “asserted patents”).

According to the complaint, the ‘220 patent generally relates to a digital video field identification system for use in digital televisions, the ‘958 patent generally discloses a novel frame structure and synchronization system for a digital television, and the ‘251 patent generally relates to a television system that includes an improved trellis coded modulation (TCM) reception system for error correction.  The complaint states that the asserted patents are essential to the practice of the Advanced Television Systems Committee (ATSC) Digital Television System transmission standard.

Zenith alleges that Sony and others on its behalf manufacture, assemble, package, and/or test digital TV and receiver products such as Sony “Bravia” television models in at least Mexico and then import them, sell them for importation, and/or sell them within the U.S. after importation in violation of Section 337.

Regarding domestic industry, Zenith asserts that it and its predecessor have made substantial investments in the exploitation of the asserted patents in the U.S., specifically in connection with licensing activities.  In particular, the complaint states that Zenith’s licensing efforts include membership in and administrator fees paid to the MPEG LA patent pool, which manages licensing programs for standards and other technology platforms used in consumer electronics.

With respect to related litigation, Zenith states that it filed suit on October 29, 2010 in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas accusing Sony of infringing a number of patents, including the ‘220 patent, the ‘958 patent, and the ‘251 patent.  Zenith also states that it previously filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas (Zenith Electronics Corp. v. Thomson, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 5:06-CV-017-DF) accusing Thomson, Inc., Thomson SA, Philips Electronics North America Corp., Koninklijke Philips Electronics N.V., TTE Technology, Inc., TTE Corp., Pioneer Electronics (USA), Inc., and Pioneer Corp. of infringing the asserted patents, which resulted in each defendant taking a license.  Zenith further states that its predecessor previously filed suit in the Eastern District of Texas (Zenith Electronics LLC  v. V, Inc., et al., C.A. No. 5:06-CV-246-DF) asserting that V, Inc., Westinghouse Digital Electronics, LLC, Funai Corp., Inc., Funai Electric Co., Ltd., Polaroid Corp., Petters Group Worldwide, LLC, APH USA, Inc., and Akai Electric Co., Ltd. infringe the asserted patents, which resulted in some defendants taking a license and a judgment of infringement as to one defendant.

With respect to potential remedy, Zenith requests that the Commission issue a permanent exclusion order and permanent cease and desist orders directed to Sony.