Office workers everywhere are familiar with height-adjustable desks. These desks allow workers to raise or lower their work surfaces, and often workers will use a height-adjustable desk to perform tasks while standing instead of sitting. As awareness of the negative health effects of sedentary lifestyles grows, height-adjustable desks have become a common solution to avoid long periods of sitting at work.
Varidesk, headquartered in Coppell, Texas, is one of the most prominent designers and distributors of height-adjustable desks. Like many US retailers that offer popular products, Varidesk observed knockoff copies for sale in the US from numerous foreign entities. Fortunately for Varidesk, its patent portfolio provided a way to defend its business.
Using four of its patents, Varidesk filed a complaint in the International Trade Commission (ITC) seeking to preclude the importation of infringing height-adjustable desks by more than thirty proposed respondents. Unlike US district court, the ITC has jurisdiction over foreign entities along with the power to stop the importation of infringing goods at the border. The ITC’s jurisdiction and power exist even if the foreign entities do not answer the complaint. While some of the proposed respondents reached agreements with Varidesk, others did not answer the complaint, and Varidesk proceeded to establish the importation of the accused products into the US and the infringement of its patents by those products. Varidesk also showed the existence of a sufficient domestic industry to merit the ITC’s remedies.
Notably, Varidesk obtained a general exclusion order, not a limited exclusion order, from the ITC. A general exclusion order prevents all importation of the excluded goods, even by entities that weren’t named by Varidesk. This remedy is more comprehensive and issued less frequently than a limited exclusion order, which covers only the goods and respondents involved in the investigation. Varidesk was able to obtain a higher level of protection by showing a widespread pattern of unauthorized use of its patented inventions and the likely circumvention of a limited exclusion order. The general exclusion order is still subject to presidential review, but presidential disapproval is rare. While the 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.
Faced with dozens of entities threatening its business, Varidesk fought back by availing itself of the ITC’s remedies. As a result, Varidesk will soon be able to rely on Customs and Border Protection to enforce its patent rights and keep infringing height-adjustable desks out of the US market.
The ITC case is Certain Height-Adjustable Desk Platforms and Components Thereof, Case No. 337-TA-1125.