Anyone who uses a mobile device knows there are times when hands-free is a necessity. Enter National Products, Inc., a US maker of RAM® Mounts for securely mounting electronic devices—including phones, tablets, laptops and radar detectors—in cars, trucks, bikes and boats, among other vehicles.
Like many US retailers, National Products discovered knockoff copies of its own products for sale in the market. In particular, National Products identified several Chinese companies importing mounts similar to its RAM® products and selling them through third-party reseller websites.
National Products was prepared to fight back. They had developed an intellectual property portfolio that covered both technical and nontechnical design aspects of their products: utility patents to protect the function of RAM® Mounts, design patents to protect the look of RAM® Mounts and a trademark registration to protect their brand.
Armed with that comprehensive portfolio, National Products took its case to the International Trade Commission (ITC), where jurisdiction over the Chinese company respondents would not be a problem (unlike in US district court); the ITC has the ability to prohibit importation of infringing goods at the border. The Chinese companies failed to respond to the ITC complaint, clearing the way for National Products to demonstrate that the accused products are imported and infringe its patents and trademark registration and to establish that National Products had a sufficient domestic industry to avail itself of the ITC’s procedures and remedies.
As a result, the ITC recently issued a general exclusion order prohibiting the unlicensed entry and sale of any imported mounts—not just those of the companies named as respondents in this case—that infringe National Products’ patents and trademark registration. The order is still subject to presidential review but, while review is pending, the ITC has ordered that anyone who continues to import infringing products may only do so subject to payment of a bond covering 100 percent of the value of the imported products.
Presidential disapproval of an exclusion order is rare, so National Products will almost certainly be able to soon rely on Customs and Border Protection to enforce its intellectual property rights and keep infringing electronic device mounts out of the US market.
The ITC case is In re Certain Mounting Apparatuses for Holding Portable Electronic Devices and Components Thereof, Case No. 337-TA-1086.