US opens patent probe into toner cartridges

Updated: 2014-06-07 23:13


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WASHINGTON - The US International Trade Commission (ITC) on Friday initiated a patent investigation into toner cartridges from more than 30 electronics companies based in China and United States.

"The products at issue in this investigation are replaceable monochrome toner cartridges and replaceable color toner cartridges for use in laser beam printers and other laser printing machines," the bipartisan trade panel said in a statement.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Japanese electronics company Canon and its US subsidiaries on May 7, alleging that these companies had infringed upon its patents related to certain toner cartridges and violated the Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, the panel said. It thus requested the ITC to issue a general exclusion order and cease and desist orders against those products.

The investigation does not mean the panel has made any decision on the merits of the case. Within 45 days, the panel will set a target date for completing the investigation. Should the complaint be approved, the panel will issue an import ban on infringing products and bar the sale of the products within the United States.

Section 337 investigations focus on allegations of patent or registered trademark infringement, and also involve misappropriation of aspects such as trade secrets, false advertising, and violation of the antitrust laws.

As it is quicker, cheaper and more practical to win the patent cases in the ITC than in the US courts, many companies based in the United States increasingly tap the ITC's authority on patent cases to tramp down their competitors.