Vizio Inc. struck back Thursday against a pesky Japanese competitor who has sued the Irvine HDTV seller for patent infringement. This time, Vizio says that Funai Electric Company and its subsidiary Funai Corporation have infringed on Vizio’s patents and need to pay for the millions of past sales.
“Unlike Funai, our patent portfolio has not been rejected by the (US Patent and Trademark Office), we at Vizio respect the rights of intellectual property and we will not stand by while foreign competitors misappropriate our intellectual property,” said Laynie Newsome, a co-founder and vice president of sales and marketing communications.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, seeks an injunction prohibiting Funai from importing and selling infringing HDTVs. It also seeks damages for millions of past infringing sales.
Funai sells TVs under the brand names Emerson, Sylvania, Philips, Magnavox, and Symphonic. It has not responded to my requests for an interview. Funai has been in and out of court attempting to get royalty fees out of Vizio, which earlier this month was named the top-selling LCD HDTV brand in the U.S.
Vizio, meanwhile, says that it is unfairly targeted by competitors because of its success. Vizio is credited with forcing all HDTV makers to lower prices as Vizio outsold big-name competitors because of its lower prices. The Emerson and Sylvania brands compete on price with Vizio and are sold in stores like Wal-Mart.
On April 10, Funai, which acquired some digital TV patents from Thompson and RCA, won a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission to stop Vizio from importing digital TVs to sell in the United States. Vizio appealed, arguing that the same patent was ruled invalid by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The two continue to be stuck in court.
Last year, Vizio joined another TV rival Westinghouse Digital in the Coalition United to Terminate Financial Abuses of the Television Transition. CUT FATT, an organization that is fighting unfair digital TV royalty fees. The group claims such fees add $30 to the price of every TV. See the earlier story, “Vizio TVs could be $30 cheaper.”
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