Taiwanese touch designer to appeal U.S. patent ruling

The International Trade Commission found that Apple did not infringe on Elan Microelectronics' patent

Elan Microelectronics, a Taiwanese designer of touchpad chips and modules, said on Monday it would appeal a ruling in the U.S., after a judge said the company's patent-related claim against Apple revealed no breach of trade laws.

Apple violated the U.S. Tariff Act of 1930 by importing its iPhone, iPod Touch and MacBooks, in violation of an Elan patent, the company said in a claim last year to the International Trade Commission. Elan had asked the commission to ban imports of Apple merchandise that would infringe on the patent.

Elan said in a statement that it had received a notice from the U.S. commission last week of a preliminary ruling that Apple did not violate international trade laws, nor did Elan prove patent infringement.

The Taiwanese company said that it regretted the preliminary ruling. Elan will ask the International Trade Commission to review the content of the chief judge's ruling and come out with a result favorable to it, the company added.

The patent in question applies to touch-sensitive input devices that can detect two or more fingers at once, allowing faster use of smartphones and other devices.

The 17-year-old Taiwanese company generated 30 percent of its revenues last year from touchpad chips and modules for smartphones, tablet PCs and mice. It expects that share to approach 50 percent this year.

Elan said it does not supply to Apple or buy anything from Apple.

Elan sued the U.S. computer giant separately in April 2009, alleging the infringement of two U.S. touch technology patents. Elan asked a U.S. federal court then to bar Apple from producing, using and selling iPhones, iPod Touch devices and MacBooks laptops.

The trade commission ruling will not affect the company's lawsuit, which is still pending a decision, Elan's statement said.

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Ralph Jennings

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