Cessna maker Textron files US lawsuit for patent violations against DJI

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The problem with being a world leader in any activity means everyone else on the planet will be working hard to take you down. Just ask China’s drone giant DJI, which has now been hit with a US lawsuit for patent violations in addition to other recent challenges it has had to battle.

Alleged patent infraction in DJI drone, camera tech

Filed Monday with the US District Court for the Western District of Texas in Waco, the lawsuit charges DJI with five different technology patent violations in its drone products. The litigation was brought by Cessna airplane manufacturer Textron Innovations Inc. on behalf of its Bell Textron subsidiary, which specializes in helicopter development and production. It cites SZ DJI Technology Co., Ltd., DJI Europe B.V. and DJI Technology, Inc. as defendants.

Not much detail within the suit is thus far available (Drone DJ is working on obtaining the filing). But brief reports on the case indicate the alleged infringements involve controller components linking the drone and attached camera. Citing five patent violations in total, Textron is reportedly seeking a cut of DJI’s billions in annual sales as compensation.

The corporate legal broadside from a US aviation heavyweight was about the last thing DJI needed just now. 

Lawsuit for patent violations latest of US headaches for DJI

Recent years of anti-China attitudes, policies, and sanctions have washed over from the political and diplomatic sphere to disrupt activity for private Chinese businesses like DJI as well. Last year DJI was added to US Department of Commerce’s Entity List banning US companies from exporting its products due to national security concerns. And though a May US Department of Defense audit cleared DJI’s Mavic Pro and the Matrice 600 Pro as posing no security threat –  and thus safe for use by government agencies – some remain wary of the technology as potentially suspect. 

Even good news for DJI (however round-about the manner it arrives) has wound up creating more friction for the company. This week, the Financial Times leaked an Interior Department memo lamenting the higher costs and lower performance of US alternatives to sidelined DJI craft. But in reply, industry group the American Drone Alliance issued a statement rebutting the purported memo as incorrect as an opportunity to thrash DJI. In doing so, the document essentially characterized the company as a de facto appendage of the Chinese Communist Party, and a partner in some of the government’s human rights abuses.

Meaning, without having made a peep or moved a finger, DJI found itself getting another public kicking over a memo it had no part of. Its drones may earn the company untold sums per year, but right now, DJI can’t seem to buy a break.

This week’s lawsuit patent violations against DJI may be additional evidence of that. Only time, and the opinion of the jurors involved, will tell whether the suit is another effort by a US corporate giant to hobble a Chinese giant while the climate is favorable, or it becomes a something more serious.

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