As a reminder that standard essential patent issues go beyond information technology, last week SawStop LLC sued manufacturers of table saws alleging that they conspired to convince Underwriters Laboratories, Inc. (“UL”) to not adopt SawStop’s patented table saw safety technology into UL standard 987 (Stationary and Fixed Electric Tools) and to adopt a different technology that required SawStop to alter its design.
SawStop alleges that it patented a saw blade safety feature that places an electrical current on the blade to allow distinguishing between the blade cutting through wood or cutting through someone’s finger, stopping the blade if the latter is detected. SawStop alleges that it offered to license this technology to other saw manufacturers, but they did not want to adopt the technology given cost considerations. The UL standard 987 applicable to table saws is overseen by UL Standards Technical Panel 745 alleged to “consist primarily of manufacturers and individuals with connections to manufacturers.” SawStop alleges that the manufacturers convinced UL to not adopt SawStops patented technology, but to adopt a saw safety guard technology that required SawStop to incur expenses to redesign its saws. SawStop thus filed this lawsuit alleging various unfair competition claims.
This is an interesting case because it reminds us that standards are all around us and not limited to information technology. It also is a unique example of a patent owner bringing suit because its technology was not adopted by an industry standard setting organization. Another such case is one brought in 2011 by TruePosition that sued manufacturers and standard setting organizations Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP) and European Telecommunications Standards Insitute (ETSI) alleging that they conspired to not adopt into mobile phone standards certain location-based technology patented by TruePosition (TruePosition, Inc. v. Ericsson, et al., Case No. 2:11-cv-04574 (E.D. Pa)). The TruePosition case is in the discovery stage with summary judgment deadline set for Dec. 2014 and trial set for Aug. 2015.