[UPDATE May 7, 2024: A representative for Insta360 issued the following response to RideApart:

"Sorry to say that we generally are unable to comment in great detail on pending legal matters. But as the holder of numerous patents worldwide, we want you to know that Insta360 has great respect for IP laws and regulations. We're confident that this matter will be resolved in our favor. There will be no impact on current business operations. We remain committed to creating innovative products for the world and helping people capture and share their lives."]

Original piece follows.

On May 1, 2024, the US International Trade Commission announced that it was formally opening an investigation into a complaint raised by GoPro against another action camera manufacturer.

GoPro, which is based in San Mateo, California, filed this complaint on March 29, 2024 against Arashi Vision. The latter company is better known by most tech and action cam aficionados as Insta360, and hails from Shenzhen, China. It also has a US office located in Irvine, California.

GoPro alleges that "certain cameras, camera systems, and accessories" imported into the US by Insta360 infringe upon six separate patents that are registered to GoPro. Each patent is listed by number in the document, so it's now up to the ITC to review the evidence presented and decide whether there's any merit to these claims.

If the ITC agrees with what GoPro alleges, GoPro is seeking what it calls a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders. In plain language, if it successfully proves that its patents were infringed upon, it wants the ITC to make Insta360 stop selling its cameras and accessories in the US. 

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What Happens Next?

It's May 3, 2024 as I write this. At the time of writing, the next step is for the ITC to assign this complaint to an Administrative Law Judge. The respondents (that's the two Arashi Vision d/b/a Insta360 locations in both Shenzhen, China and Irvine, California) have a deadline to respond to the complaint by no later than 20 days after they've received notice of the complaint and ensuing investigation.

Extensions are a possibility, but the respondents must provide "good cause" for such an extension in response time to be granted. It is not at all clear what would constitute "good cause" in the eyes of the ITC; presumably, such a cause would have to be pretty convincing to whichever individual judge is assigned to this particular case.

If Insta360 fails to respond within the allotted time frame, it could be considered a waiver of any right to contest the allegations brought forth by GoPro. If this were to happen, this could "authorize the administrative law judge and the Commission, without further notice to the respondent, to find the facts to be as alleged in the complaint and this notice and to enter an initial determination and a final determination containing such findings, and may result in the issuance of an exclusion order or a cease and desist order or both directed against the respondent."

What Does That Mean?

In plain language, that means Insta360 and Arashi Vision have 20 days to either respond or provide a good and reasonable cause for an extension if they cannot sufficiently reply within those 20 days. If they fail to do so, the ITC says that it may simply decide that GoPro's claims are valid, and give that company the exclusion and/or cease and desist orders that it wants. 

The official complaint is known as a Section 337 investigation, also known as an Unfair Import Investigation. According to the US ITC, such complaints typically involve any number of intellectual property infringement claims. 

As to whether GoPro has a leg to stand on with regard to its infringement claims, that's not yet clear. It's now up to Insta360 to respond to the complaint, and for the ITC to review the evidence and draw its own conclusions based on that evidence.

From a layperson's perspective, it stands to reason that any action camera maker might want to incorporate an important feature like image stabilization, for example, into its products.

The question then isn't about the concept of image stabilization, to follow this example a little further. It's whether the way Company B achieved its image stabilization is substantively the same as the image stabilization technology used by Company A, which also holds one or more patents for said technology. 

What Does It NOT Mean?

To be completely clear, the mere existence of a complaint like this doesn't mean that Insta360 has infringed upon GoPro's patents; only that GoPro has filed a complaint alleging that it has.

Maybe GoPro simply doesn't like the idea of the competition that Insta360's products pose. Seeking to kneecap the competition by filing a lawsuit is something of an American tradition; see also Harley versus Honda.

We can't say for sure what's in the hearts and minds of the folks behind this complaint, but we can say that it's not particularly surprising that it's been filed. 

It's A National Week-Long Holiday In China Right Now. Will The Timing Of This Complaint Complicate Matters?

According to the ITC's rules, Insta360 has 20 days to respond once it has received notice about this complaint.

The public notice was published on May 1, 2024, which is the first day of China's national Labor Day holiday. If you're wondering about my use of the phrase "first day," that's because the Labor Day holiday is, in practice, a major week-long national affair. 

We're talking about the kind of major national holiday that people travel cross-country to celebrate. If it's not your holiday, you might not know about it, but you can still probably relate it to similar family- and shopping-oriented holidays on your own calendar. While we can't speculate on the timing here, it's difficult not to wonder about how intentional it may be. 

RideApart has reached out to Insta360 for comment, but has not received a response at the time of writing. We will update this piece with any response we receive in the future.

Needless to say, we'll be keeping a close eye on developments regarding this complaint as and when they arise, and we'll be sure to keep you informed.

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