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US commission to probe local firms in infringement case

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) said Thursday that it has decided to launch an investigation into a patent infringement allegation against several Taiwanese companies and others.

In a statement, the USITC said the investigation, which will look into certain non-volatile memory chips and products containing the chips, is aimed at Taiwan's Acer Inc. (宏碁), Macronix International Co. (旺宏), ASRock Inc. (華擎科技), Asustek Computer Inc. (華碩), D-Link Corp (友訊). and Sercomm Corp (中磊).

Other high-tech companies, such as Amazon.com Inc. and Microsoft Corp. of the U.S., and Japan's Nintendo Co. are also being targeted by the investigation, the USITC said.

The USITC said Spansion LLC, a California-based flash memory chip supplier, filed a complaint with the agency on April 29, accusing the companies of violating Section 337 of the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930.

Spansion alleged that the companies imported into the U.S. and sold in the U.S. market certain non-volatile memory chip technology and products equipped with the technology asserted by the complainant.

In Taipei, Acer, Asustek and ASRock said the USITC investigation was unlikely to have any adverse impact on their operations, but they declined to comment directly on the accusations.

Micronix said Spansion's accusation was the latest in a series of legal battles between the two companies and described it as unfounded.

The company vowed to safeguard its legal rights and said it has been committed to research and development over the long term and has and always respected intellectual property rights held by others.

According to the USITC, the products under investigation are memory chips that can retain information in the absence of a power source, and consumer electronics devices containing such chips, such as computers, tablets, phones, digital cameras, routers, and video game console and cartridges.

Although the USITC decided to launch the investigation, the trade agency stressed that it had not yet made any decision on the merits of the case.

It said the USITC's chief administrative law judge will assign the case to one of the agency's administrative judges, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing on the allegations.

Within 45 days after instituting the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing it. If the USITC finds any infringement of technology by the alleged companies, they will be barred from selling those products in the U.S. market.

In August 2013, Spansion filed a similar complaint with the USITC, accusing Taiwan's Acer and other firms in Japan and the U.S. of infringing on its flash memory chip technology.

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