Autel’s Lawsuit Against DJI: DJI Attorneys Say Suit Unlikely to Affect U.S. Sales

Autel's Lawsuit against DJIIn good news for Mavic fans, DJI attorneys have responded to recent news about Autel’s lawsuit against DJI, saying that sales are unlikely to be affected.  International patent attorneys Finnegan provided the latest updates to the long running legal battle.

Earlier this month, attorneys for DJI competitor Autel Robotics claimed that sales of DJI Mavic and other popular models might be banned in the U.S. after the Chief Administrative Law Judge of the International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in Autel’s favor on a patent dispute.    It seems, however, that there is a great deal more to the case.

The legal battle between the two companies has gone on since 2015, when DJI pointed out that Autel’s X-Star looked remarkably like the Phantom series.  Since then, claims of intellectual property theft have gone back and forth.  Autel’s current lawsuit against DJI began in 2018, when Autel requested the ITC to investigate DJI on infringement of 3 patents.  “With these three patents, Autel has attempted to stop DJI from selling drones with intelligent operations such as obstacle avoidance (’174 patent), with rotor blades (’184 patent), or with batteries that clamp onto the drones (’013 patent),” says Finnegan.

In early March, the Chief Administrative Law Judge of the ITC issued a favorable initial determination for DJI, saying that the some patents “were not infringed, were not practiced by any domestic industry product, were anticipated or rendered obvious by prior art, and were directed to an abstract idea and therefore invalid under 35 U.S.C. § 101, ” and that other claims were either invalid or represented “unpatentable” ideas. Finnegan says that the Patent Trial and Appeals Board (PTAB) have also sided with DJI: “On May 13, 2020, the PTAB declared all the claims of the ’174 patent unpatentable.  On May 14, 2020, the PTAB found the asserted ’013 patent claims unpatentable,” says Finnegan.  “Then, on May 21, 2020, the PTAB found all challenged claims of the ’184 patent unpatentable, delivering DJI yet another win.”

While the Chief Administrative Law Judge of the ITC appears to have changed their initial decision, that decision has not been confirmed by the entire Commission.  History of other high profile cases indicates that this is by no means a sure thing: cases are frequently not confirmed.  Additionally, while Autel has asked for sales of the drones to be banned in the U.S., Finnegan says such a ban is unlikely to be enacted.

“The Commission is currently deciding whether to review the [Chief Administrator Law Judge’s] ID.  Ultimately the Commission may decide that Autel deserves no remedy at all, but at a minimum, the Commission is unlikely to enforce any exclusion order or cease-and-desist order based on the three invalid patents.  DJI’s sales in the U.S., therefore, will not be affected by Autel’s claims,” says Finnegan.

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Miriam McNabb is the Editor-in-Chief of DRONELIFE and CEO of JobForDrones, a professional drone services marketplace, and a fascinated observer of the emerging drone industry and the regulatory environment for drones. Miriam has penned over 3,000 articles focused on the commercial drone space and is an international speaker and recognized figure in the industry.  Miriam has a degree from the University of Chicago and over 20 years of experience in high tech sales and marketing for new technologies.
For drone industry consulting or writing, Email Miriam.

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