WASHINGTON—Toyo Tire Holdings of Americas Inc. has accused 22 tire makers, importers and retailers of patent infringement before the U.S. International Trade Commission.
Those 22 companies, meanwhile, still are studying through the 61-page complaint Toyo and its corporate affiliates filed with the ITC Aug. 14.
"We are reading it, but we have no comment as yet," said Dean Barnhart, sales manager of WTD Inc. in Cerritos, Calif., echoing the words of other prospective respondents to Toyo's petition.
In an Aug. 20 Federal Register notice, the ITC gave WTD, the other companies and other interested parties until Aug. 28 to comment on the Toyo complaint.
The ITC asked potential commenters to explain how the relief Toyo requests would affect U.S. consumers, U.S. tire production and the U.S. economy.
Among other things, the agency wants to hear from commenters whether there are directly competitive tires in the U.S. that could replace the tires Toyo wants banned from the U.S., and if Toyo, its licensees or third-party suppliers have the capacity to replace those tires.
In its complaint, Toyo charged that the passenger and light truck tires imported into the U.S. by the 22 companies infringe on eight separate design patents granted to Toyo in the U.S.
The document details how each of the prospective respondents allegedly acted to violate Toyo's design patents. Toyo and its affiliates seek to bar the tires in question from entry into the U.S. as well as a cease-and-desist order barring the sale of such tires already in the U.S.
"Toyo … has over the years developed and introduced passenger and light truck tires with designs that are both innovative and unique," the company said in a press release announcing the ITC petition. "Toyo is taking this step to protect the company, its customers and associates from unfair competition by enforcing its intellectual property rights."
In its complaints, Toyo affirmed it has the capacity to meet demand for Toyo- and Nitto-brand tires should the tires named in the complaint be excluded from the U.S. The company has a 1.7 million-sq.-ft. tire manufacturing and warehousing facility in White, Ga., plus 2 million square feet of warehousing, testing and service centers throughout the U.S., it said.
In ITC patent infringement cases, the matter first goes to an ITC administrative law judge. If the judge finds for the complainant, the case then goes to the six ITC commissioners, who vote on whether to affirm the judge's decision.
The tire companies named in the complaint are Shandong Yongtai Chemical Group Co. Ltd., Shangrao, China; Shandong Linglong Tyre Co. Ltd., Zhaoyuan City, China; Doublestar Dong Feng Tyre Co. Ltd., Shiyan, China; Guangzhou South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Aotou, China; Weifang Shunfuchang Rubber & Plastic Co. Ltd., Shouguang City, China; Svizz-One Corp. Ltd., Bangla, Thailand; and South China Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd., Guangzhou City, China.
Besides WTD, the other importers and retailers named are Hong Kong Tri-Ace Tire Co. Ltd., Guangzhou, China; MHT Luxury Alloys, Rancho Dominguez, Calif.; Wheel Warehouse Inc., Anaheim, Calif.; Dunlap & Kyle Co. Inc., d/b/a/ Gateway Tire and Service, Batesville, Miss.; Unicorn Tire Corp., Memphis, Tenn.; West KY Customs L.L.C., Benton, Ky.; American Omni Trading Co. L.L.C., Houston, Texas; Tire & Wheel Master Inc., Stockton, Calif.; Simple Tire, Cookeville, Tenn.; Turbo Wholesale Tires Inc., Irwindale, Calif.; TireCrawler.com, Downey, Calif.; Lexani Tires Worldwide Inc., Irwindale; Vittore Wheel & Tire, Asheboro, N.C.; and RTM Wheel & Tire, Asheboro, N.C.