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Gateway reports HP to ITC

Tit for tat

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HP's patent infringement fight will rival PC maker Gateway escalated yesterday when Gateway revealed it has asked the US International Trade Commission to investigate HP.

It's all getting a bit tit for tat. HP sued Gateway in March. Gateway countersued in May. That month HP complained to the ITC about Gateway. In June, the ITC said it would investigate HP's claims. Now Gateway has asked the Commission to explore its own allegations.

HP alleges Gateway's PC products infringe six patents it holds for power management, keyboard password entry, booting a PC from CD and cursor control. Gateway originally licensed the technology from Compaq. Its licence expired in 1999, but nothing was done about it until HP uncovered the deal after its 2002 acquisition of Compaq. No doubt Gateway feels HP has no right to demand fees for a licence Compaq appears to have allowed to lapse.

In return, Gateway alleges HP has violated three patents it owns concerning CD-ROM, video and graphics controls, and integrating TVs into PCs.

The ITC enters the story because HP claimed Gateway was importing into the US desktop, notebook and server products that allegedly violate seven of its patents. Alongside the legal action, the ITC is investigating whether the PCs Gateway imports do indeed infringe HP's intellectual property rights.

HP said it wasn't surprised by Gateway's latest move, Reuters reports, which it described as a typical tactic employed in such legal battles. If the ITC finds infringement, that will strengthen HP's hand in its out-of-court negotiations with its rival. Gateway's action - assuming it leads to an ITC investigation too - will similarly strengthen its own bargaining position. ®

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