By Miles Moore, Senior Washington Reporter
WASHINGTON (Sept. 12, 2013) — U.S. tire buyers and businesses would suffer injury if the International Trade Commission (ITC) grants the petition of Toyo Tire Holdings of America Inc. to ban certain tires from the U.S. for alleged patent infringement, 12 of the 22 proposed respondents in the case have told the ITC.
"Excluding the proposed respondents' tires will seriously diminish the supply of tires in the U.S. and thus increase the price paid by the consumer," the 12 companies — encompassing tire manufacturers, importers and distributors — told the ITC in a public interest statement filed Aug. 28.
Toyo filed its complaint with the ITC Aug. 14, accusing the 22 companies of infringing on eight separate design patents held by Toyo in the U.S. They manufactured, imported and distributed passenger and light truck tires that violated the patents, Toyo charged.
Toyo and its affiliates sought to bar the further importation of the tires in question, as well as a cease-and-desist order barring the sale of those tires already in the U.S.
The ITC published a request for comments on the Toyo complaint in the Aug. 20 Federal Register. The agency gave commenters until Aug. 28 to respond to how Toyo's exclusion request would affect the U.S. public interest if granted.
In the only comment filed with the ITC, the 12 companies argued that excluding their tires from U.S. distribution would cause substantial harm to U.S. consumers and markets, and possibly the U.S. environment as well.
Some of the tires in question meet European Union environmental requirements, which are more stringent than U.S. standards, the companies said. Also, one of the companies has invented a new material that can replace carbon black and is more environmentally friendly than carbon black, they said.
The companies also contradicted Toyo's contention that its manufacturing facility in White, Ga., could meet the demand left by the exclusion of the tires covered in its complaint.
"Toyo does not have the capacity to meet the expected U.S. consumer demand for UHP, M/T and A/T tires, and…several other U.S. manufacturers cannot either," they said.
Toyo- and Nitto-brand tires, they said, cost 25 to 65 percent more than the tires covered by the complaint. "If the commission enters the remedial orders, the expected shortage in supply of tires made or sold by proposed respondents will inevitably drive consumers to much-higher-priced Toyo tires," they said.
The ITC is expected to rule imminently on whether to start an investigation based on Toyo's complaint. If it does, the case will be assigned to an administrative law judge, who will then set a timetable for its progress.
The companies that filed the comment to the ITC docket were: American Omni Trading Co. L.L.C.; Doublestar Dong Feng Tyre Co. Ltd.; Dunlap & Kyle Co. Inc.; Guangzhou South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd.; Hong Kong Tri-Ace Tire Co. Ltd.; RTM Wheel & Tire; Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group Co. Ltd.; South China Tire and Rubber Co. Ltd.; Svizz-One Corp. Ltd.; Turbo Wholesale Tires Inc.; Vittore Wheel & Tire; and WTD Inc.
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