Gateway Acquisition Gives Acer More to Fight HP With

Setting up more guns on its side in its all out brawl against global #1 PC seller Hewlett-Packard, global #3 Acer - now with Gateway under its belt - filed amendments to its countersuit on Tuesday, alleging HP infringed on patents held by Acer. It's a serious battle, as Acer fights to prevent a federal judge from imposing an injunction against the importation of Acer PCs from Taiwan into the US.

Acer completed the transition of Gateway into its portfolio on October 17, so the timing of this countersuit is probably not coincidental. A check of the US Patent and Trademark Office database this morning revealed no fewer than 323 patents were assigned to Gateway, Inc. of Irvine, California. Though the amended lawsuit filing has not yet been made public, so the new patents in question have not been revealed outside of court, Gateway's patent portfolio included chip designs such as digital audio controllers, and practical designs such as a slot for holding a stylus on a portable PC.

Another Gateway patent covers "a method for recovering from a failure of an information handling system." It's described as follows: "Failure of at least one item of software utilized by the information handling system is detected and an application level component of a recovery utility to correct the detected failure is initiated." While it's unknown at present whether this is one of Acer's new weapons, there's no question that HP's depth of involvement in improving the PC system BIOS may make it vulnerable to attack now.

There's no way Acer hasn't thought of using Gateway's portfolio as ammunition, in a battle which goes to the heart of the company's business.

HP fired the first round back in March, alleging among other things that Acer's PC design willfully infringed upon technology HP created back in 1994 for use with the EISA 16-bit bus. Another sore point for HP involves the way system services detect the current screen resolution, probably for displaying BIOS information during the boot sequence.

Acer countersued in July, asserting claims with regard to HP's use of dual-frequency antennas and unlicensed DVD-ROM reader heads. By evening the stakes - at least as much as possible - a defendant is often seeking a solution where the parties resolve out of court to cross-license their patent portfolios to one another perpetually. A DVD-ROM reader head complaint may not have been enough to compensate for a bus signal sequencing complaint, which goes way deeper.

Anyone who may have been wondering what Acer stood to gain by purchasing Gateway, may have just gotten his answer.

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