While some companies wait for an impasse in a legal suit to resort to the threat of ITC action, InterDigital seems to have paused in the middle of “good faith negotiations” to seek an import ban.

InterDigital filed a complaint on Tuesday with the ITC (U.S. International Trade Commission) against Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE on intellectual property grounds. InterDigital asserts that certain 3G wireless devices fall under the company’s patents, and by making and importing them into the United States, the three companies fall afoul of the ITC.

Specifically, InterDigital is asserting ownership of U.S. Patent Nos. 7,349,540, 7,502,406, 7,536,013, 7,616,970,7,706,332, 7,706,830 and 7,970,127, which are all specifically worded and technical telecommunications patents, covering CDMA and base station functions.

Although the ITC cannot award any monetary damages, the Commission has emerged as a popular choice for intellectual property disputes over the last few years, due mainly to the rapidity of its decisions and the enormous potential impact of an import ban (enforced by U. S. Customs and Border protection) or a cease-and-desist order (enforced by the Comission itself).

InterDigital is asking the ITC for both kinds of judgements, which would immediately stop any US importation or sale of the three company’s products (a wide range of 3G wireless products from mobile phones and tablets to USB adapters and mobile hotspots).

“Good faith efforts” seem to be a matter of opinion in this case. InterDigital IP exec Lawrence Shay states that “despite having engaged in good faith efforts to license our patents to Nokia, Huawei and ZTE, we have not been able to reach an acceptable resolution.” On the other hand, the Huawei VP for external affairs, William Plummer, thought that the "good faith negotiations" were still ongoing, and was "a little bit puzzled" at the ITC involvement.

"We're pretty confident in terms of our leadership in intellectual-property rights and the commitment to respecting the rights of others," said Plummer to CNET. "We'll do whatever it takes to defend our interests."

While it is tempting to refer to the company as a patent troll, or at least a “non-manufacturing entity” (the more diplomatic term for a patent troll), InterDigital has indeed been involved in research and development for several decades, and may have indeed developed the patents in question rather than merely acquiring them as have the litigants in a number of recent suits.


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