DJI and AUTEL Settle Patent Dispute Over Drone Tech

Borsam IP

Bloomberg Law is reporting today that drone giant DJI of China and it’s nearest rival Autel Robotics have settled a major patent dispute that began in 2018.

Autel sued DJI in US court in September 2018 alleging patent infringement on features including obstacle avoidance flight-paths, rotor assembly and a way to switch out batteries to minimize lag time between flights.

DJI’s APAS system, which guides the drone along an AI directed flight path to avoid obstacles first appeared in the Mavic Air drone. Since then it has been introduced into almost every DJI drone released since then.

With global market share above 70%, DJI had significant interest in defending this lawsuit, especially as US political sentiment turned against China based corporations and offshore manufacturing under the Trump administration.

At it’s most extreme, DJI risked being frozen out of the USA drone market. These stakes were actually high.  The patent fight further evolved into May 2020 when the International Trade Commission rules that DJI had, in fact, infringed on a patent held by Autel. The ruling judge even went so far as to recommend that the products in violation be banned from importation to the USA.

This was a big deal for DJI, and potentially expensive, since the Autel patented tech was used on the Mavic Pro, Mavic Pro Platinum, Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom.

The patent in question, US Patent No. 9, 260,184, basically refers to a rotor assembly extending from the drone aircraft where a hooked rotor blade locking mechanism is engageable only when affixed to the same respective direction of the rotor. So a clockwise rotor blade is engageable only with the clockwise lock mechanism and the counterclockwise rotor blade is engagable with the counterclockwise lock mechanism.

Autel originally received the patent in 2013, and the claim against DJI was filed in 2018.

Details of the settlement have not been revealed, but it’s likely safe to assume there’s payment headed to Autel as compensation for the infringement.

Source: DRN