Patent infringement probe won't delay Acer launch

Acer America's president said patent infringement claims from rival Hewlett-Packard won't stop Acer from launching new notebook computers in June

An investigation into patent infringement allegations against computer maker, Acer, won't delay the launch of new notebook models, according to an Acer executive.

New consumer and enterprise notebook models are due out from Acer in June, but the US International Trade Commission (ITC) said it would investigate claims by HP that Acer's desktop and notebook computers violated HP patents.

HP wants the ITC to issue a permanent order for Acer to stop using the patented technology and to block Acer products from being imported to the US. The infringing technology includes desktop and notebook computers and digital display devices, both as standalone devices and as integrated components of a notebook computer, according to an ITC statement.

But the dispute won't stop Acer from introducing new Aspire notebooks for consumers and TravelMate notebooks for business users, president of Acer America, Rudi Schmidleithner, said.

"This has been going on for quite some time," Schmidleithner said of the HP dispute, at Acer's US offices in San Jose, California.

He said HP's infringement claim might be designed just to distract Acer as it launches new products.

Besides the ITC complaint, HP filed a lawsuit against Acer on March 27 in US District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, and then later amended it with additional infringement claims, a spokeswoman for HP, Christina Schneider, said.

Neither Schneider nor Schmidleithner would say whether settlement negotiations are underway in the case. Patent disputes are often settled by the patent holder licensing its technology to the other company for a price.

The Acer Aspire will come in two models and feature the new Intel Centrino platform for mobile computing, which uses the Core 2 Duo processor. The new Centrino features improved wireless Internet access and greater performance for playing video games and streaming content from the Web, such as movies and TV shows. Pricing for the Aspires starts at $US1999.

Acer also uses processors from Intel rival Advanced Micro Devices, which is introducing an improved mobile computing processor. The AMD processor will also be built into future Acer notebooks.

To break out from the pack of commoditised personal computers, the Aspires will feature a case design developed in partnership with the luxury sports car maker, BMW.

"A commodity product still has to have a nice design," Schmidleithner said.

The TravelMate featured a more conservative design for business users, he said. The TravelMate line will be refreshed with upcoming models. Acer did not provide pricing for those.

Acer recently moved up a notch in PC sales rankings. It surpassed Lenovo Group for third place in the global PC market, according to an April 18 preliminary first quarter 2007 report from research firm, Gartner. HP led with 17.6 per cent market share, followed by Dell (13.9 per cent), Acer (6.8) and Lenovo's (6.3).

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Robert Mullins

IDG News Service

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