A U.S. trade panel that hears patent disputes said it would investigate allegations that Toyota Motor Corp, the world's largest automaker, infringed patented technology to make its popular hybrid vehicles.
The U.S. International Trade Commission said on Tuesday that Paice LLC, based in Bonita Springs, Florida, had asked it to order Japan's Toyota to stop using the infringing technology to make the cars and to bar imports with the fuel-saving gasoline/electric technology.
The suit is similar to one that Paice filed in a U.S. court in Texas, a popular venue for infringement suits, where David Folsom issued an order in April requiring Toyota to pay fees to Paice based on the number of cars sold.
Toyota has appealed Folsom's order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
Toyota itself has many patents on the hybrid technology and believes that it has strong defenses against all of Paice's claims and that it will prevail in the ITC proceeding, Toyota said in a statement.
Toyota Motor North America and Toyota Motor Sales were also named in the suit.
Paice did not return calls seeking comment.
Toyota is the global leader in mass-market hybrid car sales, with the Prius its signature model. The Prius alone accounted for nearly half of hybrid sales in the U.S. market this year through September.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and John Crawley; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tim Dobbyn)