At the end of last week, the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) voted to undergo an investigation of several companies including fitness tracking and smartwatch manufacturers Fitbit and Garmin. The investigation follows a complaint against those firms and three others made to the USITC on December 10th by the North American and Dutch units of Philips. According to a release issued by the USITC (via Reuters), the complaint alleges that the accused companies, including Fitbit and Garmin, "(committed) violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain wearable monitoring devices, systems, and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainants. The complainants request that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order (sales ban) and cease and desist orders."The case will be turned over to one of the U.S. International Trade Commission's administrative law judges (ALJ). The latter will be the one deciding when hearings will be held. The patents allegedly used illegally by the defendants are related to activity tracking, alarm reporting, and other features. For its part, Fitbit denies the allegations and says, "We believe these claims are without merit and a result of Philips' failure to succeed in the wearables market." The USITC released a statement pointing out that it "…has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time."Philips says that it had been in talks with Fitbit and Garmin to license the intellectual property for over three years, but could not reach an agreement. In a statement, Philips stated that it "expects third parties to respect Philips' intellectual property in the same way as Philips respects the intellectual property rights of third parties."
Within 45 days after the investigation starts, the USITC will announce a target date for the end of the investigation. Orders issued in regard to this case will become final 60 days after they are issued unless they are disallowed by the U.S. Trade Representative. Other companies being probed under the same complaint from Philips include Ingram Micro, Maintek and Inventec Appliances.