WASHINGTON, D.C. (Sept. 16, 2013) – The International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted to investigate charges of patent infringement by Toyo Tire Holdings of Americas Inc. against 22 manufacturers, importers and sellers of passenger and light truck tires.
Toyo filed a complaint with the ITC on Aug. 14, alleging the 22 companies have engaged in unfair trade practices by importing into and/or selling in the U.S. tires that infringe eight U.S. design patents held by Toyo and used in both Toyo- and Nitto-brand tires.
These practices violate section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, according to Toyo, which is asking the ITC to issue a limited exclusion order and cease-and-desist orders.
By instituting this investigation (337-TA-894), the ITC has not yet decided the merits of the case, the commission said. The ITC's chief administrative law judge will assign the case to one of the commission's administrative law judges, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing, the ITC said.
The judge will have 45 days to set a target date for completing the investigation, which the ITC said should occur at the "earliest practicable time." The judge is tasked with making an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337, but that initial determination is subject to review by the commission.
ITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance, the commission said, unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.
ITC investigations usually take 13 to 15 months, the commission said.
A dozen of the 22 accused companies told the ITC in a joint statement that banning tires under this petition would cause U.S. tire buyers and businesses to suffer injury because Toyo does not possess sufficient capacity to make up the expected shortfall.
Toyo's complaint primarily involves tread and/or sidewall design patents and cites six Chinese tire makers, one Thai tire maker, 14 U.S.-based tire distributors and one China-based distributor as the offending parties.
The complaint identifies 11 individual tire brands and models as those that allegedly violate Toyo's patents: Concours A/T; Durun Terrain Grabber M/T; Lexani LX-Six; LionHart LH-Three; Mark Ma Dakar M/T; Pioneer A/T; Sunny SN3890; Thunderer M/T R405; Tri-Ace Dub; Wanli S-1089; and Winrun KF770.
Toyo claims these products infringe on patents used in making its own Toyo Open Country A/T and Proxes 4 and Nitto Trail Grappler M/T lines.
The Chinese tire makers identified by Toyo are:; Doublestar Dong Feng Tyre Co. Ltd.; Guangzhou South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.; Shandong Linglong Tyre Co. Ltd.; Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group Co. Ltd.; South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.; and Weifang Shunguchang Rubber & Plastic Co. Ltd. The Thai tire maker is Svizz-One Corp. Ltd.
U.S.-based tire distributors identified in Toyo's complaint are: American Omni Trading Co.; Dunlap & Kyle/Gateway Tire & Service; Lexani Tires; MHT Luxury Alloys; RTM Wheel & Tire; Simple Tire; Tirecrawler.com; Tire & Wheel Master Inc.; Turbo Wholesale Tires Inc.; Unicorn Tire Corp.; Vittore Wheel & Tire; West KY Customs; Wheel Warehouse Inc.; and WTD Inc.
Toyo also identified one overseas-based distributor: Hong Kong Tire-Ace Tire Co. Ltd. of China.