New H-P vs. Acer patent suit could fuel up 'rocket docket'

Rob Luke Mar. 29, 2007, 7:00am

Sam B. Hall Federal Courthouse in Marshall

MARSHALL, Texas -- Silicon Valley-based PC maker Hewlett-Packard (H-P) knows where to pick its fights - at least when it comes to patent lawsuits.

H-P earlier this week filed a patent-infringement suit against Taiwanese rival Acer in federal court in Marshall, in the state's Eastern District.

Marshall and other Eastern District courts have become known to patent lawyers - for their expediency and plaintiff-friendliness in patent-infringrement suits - as the "rocket docket," reported a recent Wall Street Journal law blog.

Marshall, a town of 25,000 just west of the Louisiana border "has become the hotbed of patent-infringement litigation" wrote WSJ blogger Peter Lattman last fall. That was shortly after the New York Times magazine featured Marshall and its main growth industry. Federal judge John Ward appeared on the front cover.

Hewlett-Packard's lawsuit Tuesday alleges that Acer committed a variety of patent infringements between 1997 and 2003. H-P charges Acer knocked off its patented technology in five different areas, including multiple-chip processing and optical drive editing.

"HP believes Acer has been selling computer products that use HP's patented technologies without permission," the company stated in a release. Acer responded late yesterday that it was "conducting a full investigation" into HP's allegations, the AP reported.

H-P is also going for a knockout punch with the suit, taking on an offshore rival that had been steadily gaining market share on one of Silicon Valley's flagship companies. Research firms Gartner and IDC estimate that Acer grew its U.S. market share 30-40 percent in 2006.

Acer yesterday announced a 20.5 percent profit rise in 2006 to $303 million on revenues that rose 16 percent to $11.2 billion. Acer's global market share over the period jumped from 4.7 percent to 6.8 percent.

As well as monetary damages, H-P is seeking an injunction against Acer selling any of its computer models that H-P claims are based on its patents. This, according yesterday's BetaNews, could include Acer's entire line of notebook computers.

After analyzing H-P's suit, BetaNews concluded that "at least two of HP's five patents could face a significant challenge" during the lawsuit hearing.

It also notes that Marshall hears a reported 60 percent of all anti-trust cases filed in the Eastern District.

Still plenty of rocket in the docket.

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