US ITC judge rules against Motorola in dispute with Apple

The ruling is preliminary and needs approval of the full commission

An administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Apple did not violate a Motorola Mobility patent relating to a sensor controlled user interface for a portable communication device.

Judge Thomas B. Pender ruled in his initial determination on Tuesday that there had been no violation of Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 with respect to U.S Patent no. 6,246,862.

Section 337 investigations conducted by the ITC most often involve claims regarding intellectual property rights, including allegations of patent infringement and trademark infringement by imported goods. The commission may review and adopt, modify, or reverse an initial determination.

The '862 patent refers to the use of a sensor to disable a touch-sensitive input device from being accidentally actuated when it is close to the user. Judge Pender declared claim 1 of the patent to be invalid and "not obvious."

The ITC ruled in August that it did not find a violation of 337 in the investigation with respect to three other Motorola patents. These were U.S. Patent Nos. 6,272,333 ("the '333 patent"); 6,246,697 ("the '697 patent"); and 5,636,223 ("the '223 patent"). It however remanded the investigation to the presiding ALJ with respect to the '862 patent' after it decided to reverse a finding that claim 1 is indefinite. The Commission remanded the investigation to the ALJ to consider the issues of infringement, validity, and the domestic industry requirement for the '862 patent.

Motorola could not be immediately reached for comment. The ruling is the latest in disputes between Apple and Motorola, which was acquired by Google for US$12.5 billion in a bid to shore up its patent portfolio.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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