The big headline over the last few days has been about the latest results in the ongoing DJI Autel lawsuit – an epic legal battle over intellectual property between two Chinese drone manufacturers that dates back to 2016 or before.   Last week, the Chief Adminstrative Law Judge of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of Autel – and recommended that drones in question be banned from U.S. shelves.

Steptoe, the lawfirm representing Autel, have claimed victory – but it’s likely that the DJI Autel lawsuit will continue.  Here’s what we know:

What Was the DJI Autel Lawsuit About?

The battle back in 2016 was actually filed by DJI against Autel, for patent infringements on the design of the Phantom series.  Since then, the suits and counter suits have continued: this latest ruling claims an infringement upon U.S. Patent No. 9, 260,184, belonging to Autel.  In summary, the patent relates to the way in which the legs are attached to the main body of a compact drone  – in such a way that they can be folded for storage.  The DJI Mavic was first released in September of 2016: Autel’s Evo made a splash at the January, 2018 CES show, and was immediately tagged as a competitor to the Mavic series.  Since then, the two series have been often compared to one another, offering an obviously similar form factor.

What Happened in the Recent Ruling?

The ruling came from the International Trade Commission (ITC) in the U.S. , and the results relate to importing DJI drones into the U.S.  The Chief Administrative Law Judge recommended that the drones in violation of the patent infringement, which include the Mavic Pro, Mavic Pro Platinum, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic Air, and Spark, be banned from import.  The judge also recommended that a “cease and desist” order prohibit DJI from selling any of those products already in the U.S.

This recommendation must be confirmed by the ITC’s full commission, by no means a certain result.  If, however, the full commission does uphold the ruling, Steptoe says that the products could be taken off the market as soon as July.

Other DJI Products: the Battle Continues

The DJI Autel lawsuits aren’t likely to end any time soon.  Autel has already filed a petition with the ITC “to extend the exclusion order to include other popular DJI products including the Phantom 4 and Inspire series drones,” says the Steptoe release.  That would appear to indicate that history is repeating itself – our first report on a lawsuit back in 2016 was initiated by DJI, relating to the Autel X-Star, which DJI pointed out “copied the look and feel of DJI’s UAVs.”

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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