IBM's patent complaint against Taiwanese computer vendor Asustek Computer took a step forward recently. Last week the US International Trade Commission voted to investigate IBM's claim that Asustek Computer violated three patents and should be barred from importing equipment into the US.

IBM alleged on December 5 that Asustek's computer products and components use IBM technology related to PC power supply, automatic fan speed control, and the method and apparatus for making a cluster of computers appear as a single host on a network. The products in question are motherboards, graphics cards, notebook computers, barebone computers, servers (compare server products) and routers (compare access routers).

Get reviews of the latest laptops at Laptop Advisor.

Asustek was licensed to use the technology until December 2004, when an agreement with IBM expired, and attempts to negotiate a new licensing deal have failed.

The International Trade Commission voted last Friday to start an investigation but has not ruled on the merits of the case, and has not yet set a target date for completing the investigation.

In its complaint, IBM asked the ITC to issue an exclusion order preventing the importation into the US of Asustek computer products that contain patented IBM technology.