By Eric Schweibenz and Alex Englehart
On September 5, 2017, Intellectual Ventures II LLC (“IV”) of Bellevue, Washington filed a complaint requesting that the ITC commence an investigation pursuant to Section 337.

The complaint alleges that the following proposed respondents unlawfully import into the U.S., sell for importation, and/or sell within the U.S. after importation certain thermoplastic-encapsulated electric motors, components thereof, and products and vehicles containing same that infringe one or more claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,154,200 (the ’200 patent); 7,067,944 (the ’944 patent); 7,067,952 (the ’952 patent); 7,683,509 (the ’509 patent); and 7,928,348 (the ’348 patent):

  • Aisin Seiki Co., Ltd. of Japan
  • Aisin Holdings of America, Inc. of Seymour, Indiana
  • Aisin Technical Center of America, Inc. of Northville, Michigan
  • Aisin World Corporation of America of Northville, Michigan
  • Bayerische Motoren Werke AG of Germany
  • BMW of North America, LLC of Woodcliff Lake, New Jersey
  • BMW Manufacturing Co., LLC of Greer, South Carolina
  • Denso Corporation of Japan
  • Denso International America, Inc. of Southfield, Michigan
  • Honda Motor Co., Ltd. of Japan
  • Honda North America, Inc. of Torrance, California
  • American Honda Motor Co., Inc. of Torrance, California
  • Honda of America Mfg., Inc. of Marysville, Ohio
  • Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, LLC of Lincoln, Alabama
  • Honda R&D Americas, Inc. of Torrance, California
  • Mitsuba Corporation of Japan
  • American Mitsuba Corporation of Mount Pleasant, Michigan
  • Nidec Corporation of Japan
  • Nidec Automotive Motor Americas, LLC of Auburn Hills, Michigan
  • Toyota Motor Corporation of Japan
  • Toyota Motor North America, Inc. of New York, New York
  • Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. of Torrance, California
  • Toyota Motor Engineering & Manufacturing of Erlanger, Kentucky
  • Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Indiana, Inc. of Princeton, Indiana
  • Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky, Inc. of Georgetown, Kentucky

According to the complaint, the asserted patents generally relate to thermoplastic-encapsulated electric motors. More specifically, the ’200 and ’944 patents are directed to an electric motor body made from a thermoplastic material that substantially encapsulates the stator and pole assembly, respectively, and positions them precisely and accurately relative to other components of the motor. The ’348 and ’509 patents are directed to an electric motor in which the electrical conductor is substantially encapsulated in a thermoplastic body that includes physical features to aid in cooling the device with a fluid coolant (i.e., features molded into the thermoplastic body that allow a coolant fluid to carry away excess heat from the conductors and stator). The ’952 patent is directed to a stator assembly for an electric motor made from a plurality of discrete stator segments with features that allow the segments to be connected to each other in a repeating arch-like structure to form the entire stator, and also teaches encasing individual stator segments in a thermoplastic material.

The products accused of infringement in the complaint include, without limitation, coolant pumps, water pumps, power steering motors, actuators, drive motors, transaxle assemblies, and other thermoplastic-encapsulated electric motors, and vehicles containing such components. In particular, the complaint identifies the drive motor for the turbocharger in BMW’s 2016 228i, 328i, 428i, X3, X4, and Z4 vehicles; various Aisin water pumps and the 2017 Honda Accord and 2016 Toyota Avalon, Camry, Highlander, RAV4, and Prius vehicles containing same; various Mitsuba electronic power steering units and the 2016 and 2017 Honda Accord, CR-Z, and Pilot vehicles containing same; various Honda power steering motors and gears, coolant pumps, and water pumps, and the 2016 Honda Pilot, CR-Z, and Acura RLX and the 2017 Honda Accord and Hybrid Sedan vehicles containing same; the 2016 Lexus ES power steering unit, 2017 Toyota Hybrid Transaxle Assembly, various Toyota water pumps, and the 2016 Lexus ES, Avalon, Camry, Prius, Avalon, RAV4, and Highlander and the 2017 Toyota Avalon, Camry, Highlander, Prius, RAV4 vehicles containing same; the Nidec 53600-TY2-A61 steering gear assembly and the 2016 Acura RLX vehicle containing same; and the Denso 89650-33640 power steering motor and the 2016 Lexus ES vehicle containing same.

Regarding domestic industry, IV relies on the activities of its licensee, Encap Technologies, Inc. In particular, IV alleges that a domestic industry exists and is in the process of being established as a result of activities such as “the current and anticipated future significant and substantial domestic investments” of Encap in at least certain servo motors, oil pumps, and water pumps. IV also asserts that “related manufacturing entity” Intec Group is a manufacturing affiliate of Encap that makes certain Encap products that practice the asserted patents. According to the complaint, Encap and Intec each have a facility and employees in Palatine, Illinois where the relevant domestic industry activities occur. IV alleges that a domestic industry exists and is in the process of being established under Section 337(a)(3)(A) due to Encap and Intec’s significant investment in plant and equipment, under Section 337(a)(3)(B) due to Encap and Intec’s significant employment of labor and capital, and under Section 337(a)(3)(c) due to Encap’s substantial investment in research and development with respect to each of the asserted patents.

As to related litigation, IV notes that it previously filed a complaint at the ITC substantially similar to the instant complaint, and that that previous complaint resulted in the institution of ITC Inv. No. 337-TA-1052. See our March 28, 2017 and May 1, 2017 posts for more details on the complaint and Notice of Investigation, respectively, in the 1052 investigation. IV further notes that ALJ Dee Lord recently issued an initial determination terminating the 1052 investigation due to IV’s lack of standing. See our August 16, 2017 post for more details. IV additionally states that it has moved to withdraw its complaint in the 1052 investigation. IV also recently filed another complaint at the ITC making similar allegations to those made in both the 1052 investigation and the instant ITC complaint, but naming ASMO Co. Ltd. Of Japan, ASMO North America, LLC of Statesville, North Carolina, and ASMO North Carolina, Inc. of Statesville, North Carolina as additional proposed respondents. See our August 17, 2017 post for more details. That other complaint has now been officially withdrawn. In addition, IV states that it is asserting each of the patents-in-suit in pending actions in the District of Delaware against each of the BMW, Honda, Aisin Seiki, Mitsuba, Nidec, Toyota, and Denso entities named in the complaint. IV further states that each of the asserted patents has been targeted by two petitions for inter partes review (IPR) at the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB), but that the PTAB has not yet decided on whether to institute proceedings based on such petitions.

With respect to potential remedy, IV requests that the Commission issue a permanent limited exclusion order and permanent cease-and-desist orders directed at each proposed respondent.