U.S. trade agency to investigate semiconductor complaint

Semiconductor vendor Tessera claims 11 companies have infringed its patent for semiconductor chips

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted to investigate a patent complaint by semiconductor vendor Tessera, alleging that 11 companies have infringed its patent for semiconductor chips with a minimized chip package size.

The Tessera complaint, filed April 21 against 11 competitors, mirrors a similar complaint the company filed in December. The earlier complaint targeted 18 companies, including Acer and Kingston Technology, for allegedly violating the same patent.

Tessera's so-called section 337 complaints ask the ITC to bar infringing products from being imported into the U.S.

The ITC opened an investigation into the earlier complaint in January. The new complaint targets ASE of Taiwan and two sister companies; ChipMOS Technologies of Taiwan and two sister companies; Siliconware Precision Industries of Taiwan and a sister company; and Stats ChipPac of Singapore and two sister companies. Spokespeople for three of the companies didn't immediately respond to a request for comments on the Tessera complaints.

Tessera is based in San Jose, Calif.

The Tessera complaints focus on four patents for semiconductor chips used in several products, including mobile phones, computers, and digital cameras. The company has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, as well as the ITC complaints. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has granted reexamination requests on two Tessera patents.

Since late 2007, the ITC has launched investigations into several patent complaints, including an anti-virus software complaint by Trend Micro, a PC power supply complaint by computer maker Ultra Products and parent company Systemax, and a power supply complaint by IBM against Asustek Computer.

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 U.S. 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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