Blu-Ray Discovery Battle Continues at ITC

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Sony agreed to have executives in Japan deposed by U.S. consular officials for the International Trade Commission’s investigation of claims that Sony and others are importing Blu-ray players that violate a Walker Digital patent.



     Sony said it will not oppose Stamford, Conn.-based Walker Digital’s motion to have the ITC ask the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issue a commission to consular officials in Osaka-Kobe, Japan to take the depositions.
     ITC administrative law judges cannot issue such commissions, but rely on federal courts to issue them.
     But Walker and Sony disagree on what documents Walker must produce during discovery.
     In a motionto deny some of Sony’s discovery requests, Walker said Sony “seeks the production of irrelevant documents that are not likely to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”
     Sony had asked to see all the documents granting patent rights for any of Walker Digital’s patents and all of its royalty agreements.
     Walker, noting that it owned more than 400 patents, said Sony’s request was overbroad.
     Walker filed its complaint with the ITC in December 2011, alleging that 17 companies and their subsidiaries were infringing on its patent, which allows viewers to get on-screen information about the program they are watching without interrupting playback.
     Most of the big names in consumer electronics were named as respondents, including Denon, LG, Onkyo, Panasonic, Pioneer, Samsung, Sharp, Toshiba and Vizio. The ITC agreed to investigate in January.
     Since then, Walker has reached settlement agreements with several respondents including Phillips Electronics, Orion America, Harman International and the Harier Group.
     The ITC investigates patent claims under section 337 of the Tariff Act, which bars importation of goods infringing on U.S. patents.
     One of six administrative law judges investigates such claims, prepares an initial determination and proposes remedies, which commissioners can let stand, remand or adopt.
     After a period during which the president of the United States can reject its decisions, an ITC ruling can be appealed only to the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
     Administrative Law Judge E. James Gildea scheduled an evidentiary hearing for January 2013 and expects to have his initial determination completed by April 2013.

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