DJI, the world’s largest drone manufacturer, says a competitor released a new product that looks “suspiciously” like the Phantom flagship line less than a year after hiring hiring away a target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”> target=”_blank”>DJI engineer.
In a patent infringement complaint filed in August, DJI alleges that Chinese drone company Autel Robotics “copied the look and feel of DJI’s UAVs when it designed its X-Star” model drones in 2015.
After unveiling the product line at CES 2016, Autel priced the X-Star at $799 and X-Star Premium at $999 – a lower price than Phantom models at the time.
“Autel priced its X-Star UAV products in order to compete with and undercut the pricing of DJI’s UAVs, including the DJI Phantom models,” the federal complaint states.
DJI alleges that Autel knew the details of the company’s patents and “deliberately and willfully copied” DJI’s patented designs. Autel began manufacture of the X-Star line, DJI says, after hiring away a DJI lead engineer several months before product launch — a product line that DJI believes “looks suspiciously like the Phantom.”
Much like the Phantom series, the X-Star is designed with extension arms that spread away from the drone’s central body and also function as a landing stand. In a website photo, the X-Star standard model appears to be white with orange accents just like at least one Phantom model.
In the complaint, DJI says that the competing drone models are so alike that customers would be deceived by the “substantial similarity between the designs so as to be induced to purchase an X-Star believing it to be substantially the same as the design protected by the [DJI] patent.”
Unless the court rules in its favor, DJI states the alleged infringement will irreparably injure the company’s property rights. The Shenzen-based company is asking the Delaware District federal court to order Autel to stop selling the X-Star line and to pay DJI unstated damages and attorney’s fees.
This is not the first patent fight DJI has faced. In April, the company filed suit against Yuneec in the Central California federal court, claiming its competitor’s products infringed on two DJI patents.
DJI holds hundreds of patents in several countries, including around 30 in the U.S.