US to Investigate PC Power Supply Trade Complaint

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has launched an investigation of 14 companies importing PC power supplies into the U.S. following a complaint by two companies that the imported hardware violates their patents.

Computer maker Ultra Products of Fletcher, Ohio, and parent company Systemax of Port Washington, New York, filed the patent complaint with the ITC on April 4. The two U.S. companies have asked the ITC to bar 14 companies, including Coolmax Technology, Enermax Technology and Aerocool Advanced Technologies, all based in Taiwan, from importing some PC power supplies into the U.S.

In their complaint, Systemax and Ultra Products say they have a patent on PC power supplies that provide internal electric power to the computer and external power to other computer-related devices such as printers and speakers. Systemax operates computer hardware retailer TigerDirect.com, and in January, the company agreed to buy the CompUSA brand, trademarks, e-commerce business and up to 16 retail outlets.

TigerDirect co-founder Carl Fiorentino received the patent in September 2004. He assigned the patent to Ultra Products in 2006, according to papers filed by Ultra Products and Systemax.

The ITC case will be referred to an administrative law judge, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The judge will make an initial determination whether there is a violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. That initial determination is subject to commission review.

The ITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest possible time, the commission said. Within 45 days, the ITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.

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