A favorable court ruling should be giving SawStop some confidence in its ongoing patent dispute with Bosch concerning the sale of Bosch’s REAXX table saws, but it doesn’t mean that REAXX customers will be left in the sawdust.
On September 9, 2016, an Administrative Law Judge with the United States International Trade Commission (USITC) ordered that Bosch had violated the law under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 (19 U.S.C. § 1337) with its REAXX table saws after they were determined to infringe upon two SawStop U.S. patents.
Developed in 1999, SawStop’s technology allows table saws to detect when flesh comes into contact with the saw blade and triggers an automatic, five-millisecond braking system. This safety mechanism is a promising feature for the 4,000 Americans who will suffer a major amputation due to saws each year.
This recent ruling may seem like a final win for SawStop, but it is just an initial determination. Under the authority of section 19 U.S.C. § 1337, the USITC investigates allegations of intellectual property violations and unfair competitive practices in import trade. The first step of the process is an investigation. At this point, the commission takes notice of an allegation of unfair trade practices and an Administrative Law Judge is appointed to hear the case and render an initial determination – which is what this ruling is. The commission may adopt that initial determination, or it may modify or reverse it. The parties can request the USITC review any initial decision, which, according to Bosch’s press release, is already in the works, with the decision expected early January 2017. Even if the judge’s decision is upheld in the commission's review, its final determination can still be appealed, an option that Bosch will undoubtedly use if necessary.
Early on in the development of this safety technology, SawStop sought to license the technology to the major manufacturers, but their offer was rebuked. A lawsuit followed, alleging the major power-tool manufacturers conspired to keep SawStop’s technology from becoming the industry standard; the suit continues. SawStop, who eventually began producing its own line of table saws, gained some notoriety and customers took notice. After a series of hard- hitting personal-injury lawsuits for which SawStop’s technology played a major role in determining the safety standard, the major manufacturers did a 180° about face and looked to develop their own flesh-detecting injury-mitigation technology. Bosch brought the REAXX line of table saws to the U.S. market and SawStop responded with a patent infringement lawsuit.
According to Bosch’s press release, the “ongoing litigation has no effect on distributors’ ability to buy or sell Bosch REAXX table saws. REAXX cartridges, accessories and service parts are available” and they are correct. At this time consumers may still purchase all of the REAXX products they want, pending a final determination by the USITC. Once that final determination is released, we’ll better know if REAXX products have a future in the U.S. market.
Neil L. Wilcove is a partner at Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP and Chair of the Construction Law and Commercial Litigation practice groups in which he represents contractors, subcontractors, owners, architects, engineers, and sureties. He handles payment disputes, delay claims, and construction and design defect cases. Mr. Wilcove also assists his clients in negotiating and drafting construction contracts.
Daniel A. Nicholson is an associate attorney at Freeman, Mathis & Gary, LLP (Accepted to the New York Bar, Pending Acceptance to the Georgia Bar) practicing Construction Law in Atlanta.