23 Jul 2024


USITC investigates Rockwell patent allegations

Following a complaint lodged by Rockwell Automation, the US International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to start an investigation into certain industrial control software, systems and components. The products at issue are programmable industrial controllers and associated software used for the automation of industrial processes.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Rockwell in August, alleging violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 by the importation into the US and sale of certain industrial control system software and components. These items are alleged to infringe patents held by Rockwell, which has asked the USITC to issue a limited exclusion order and a cease-and-desist order.

The respondents in the investigation are the German software developer 3S-Smart Software Solutions, and the Taiwanese automation manufacturer Advantech and its US operation. 3S-Smart is the developer of the Codesys automation software, which is used by around 400 industrial companies worldwide – mainly manufacturers of controls and automation equipment. Advantech is one of these companies.

USITC says that by instituting this investigation it has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. The USITC will assign the case to an administrative law judge (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337. That determination is subject to review by the Commission.

The USITC says it will make a final determination in the investigation “at the earliest practicable time”. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.

•  Advantech says it is looking into measures to deal with the USITC probe and is reviewing its business with 3S-Smart Software. A spokesperson, quoted by Reuters, says that the issue involved only eight units of a component that Advantech custom-produced for a US customer. The affected value was less than $10,000 and Advantech has already stopped selling the items.