May 11 (Reuters) - A U.S. appeals court on Monday overturned a ruling barring the import and sale of sex toys made by several companies that had been found to infringe on a patent held by Standard Innovation Corp of Canada covering its We-Vibe vibrator.
A spokesman for the Ottawa-based company said it was disappointed but confident its patent was still valid.
Standard Innovation has been fighting for years with rival Lelo Inc, which makes a competing two-armed or dual-motor vibrator. The patent case has been closely watched on the novelty, or gadget side of the adult entertainment industry.
In Monday’s decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed a June 2013 ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Standard Innovation, which is privately held, filed a complaint in early 2012 accusing a group of companies led by Lelo of infringing on its patent covering the We-Vibe.
The appellate court, in overturning the ITC ruling, said Standard’s investment and employment levels in the United States fell short of satisfying so-called “domestic industry requirements.”
The requirements are significant because the ITC only has power to protect a business or industry that has significant levels of investment - including in engineering or research and development - or employment in the United States.
The court said Standard uses Chinese manufacturers to assemble the We-Vibe devices, from parts and components obtained from third-party suppliers, and fell short of the requirements for protection tied to a patent.
Standard Innovation spokesman Denny Alexander said the company had not yet decided whether to seek a rehearing of the case. But he said Standard Innovation would view any resumption of import and sales of We-Vibe competitors by Lelo or others as “willful infringement.”
“While disappointed in the ruling we’re still optimistic in the validity of our patent,” Alexander said.
“The patent office has reconfirmed time and again that our patent is valid,” he added.
Lelo representatives did not immediately return calls and e-mails seeking comment.
The case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is Lelo Inc, Leloi AB, appellants v. International Trade Commission, appellee, Standard Innovation US Corp, Standard Innovation Corp, intervenors, No. 2013-1582 (Reporting by Tom Brown; Editing by Dan Grebler)