U.S. trade body launches hard-disk drive probe

ITC patent infringement probe will target both drive makers and companies that use hard-disk drives in their products, including HP and Dell

The United States International Trade Commission (ITC) has launched an investigation into five companies after allegations of patent infringement in hard-disk drives.

The probe will target both drive makers and companies that use hard-disk drives in their products: Western Digital, Seagate Technology, Toshiba America Information Systems, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell, the agency said in a statement.

The Washington-based body said the investigation has been launched in reaction to a complaint of violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 and seeks a ban on importation into the U.S. of products that allegedly infringe on U.S. patents. The complaint was made a month earlier by Steven and Mary Reiber of Lincoln, Calif., and is centered around "dissipative ceramic bonding tips," which is related to electrical wire connections inside the drives.

The ITC did not name the patents alleged to have been infringed, but according to U.S. Patent and Trademark Office records, the Reibers hold patents 6,935,548 and 6,651,864 covering such methods.

With Wednesday's decision to open an investigation, the ITC has a 45-day timeframe in which to set a target date for completing the investigation. The case will be heard by ITC administrative law judge Carl Charneski, who will set an evidentiary hearing.

The complainants requested that the ITC issue a permanent exclusion order and a permanent cease-and-desist order against the companies.

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