ITC clears Apple of infringement of three Motorola patents, holds decision on fourth

The fourth patent was referred for reconsideration by the administrative law judge

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled Friday that Apple did not infringe three of Motorola Mobility's patents, while remanding the investigation into a fourth patent to the presiding administrative law judge.

The ITC decided to review in part in June an earlier determination by the administrative law judge after receiving comments from the industry and the Federal Trade Commission, which were critical of allowing import bans that involved alleged infringement of standards-essential patents.

The ITC ruled last week that Apple did not infringe U.S. patent numbers 6,272,333 (the '333 patent), 6,246,697 ('697 patent), and 5,636,223 ('223 patent). The 6,246,862 ('862 patent) related to a sensor controlled user interface for a portable communication device has been remanded to the ALJ.

"Motorola was one of the earliest mobile phone innovators, and much of Apple's success builds on our foundational work. We're considering our options as we continue to push for patent peace," Motorola said in a statement in response to the ITC order on Friday.

Motorola, now a Google owned company, filed a complaint against Apple in November 2010, alleging that Apple's products like some models of its Mac computers, iPad and iPhone devices violated some of its patents.

In a final initial determination in April, the ALJ Thomas B. Pender had found a violation of the '697 patent, though he did not find infringement of the other patents. The ALJ also found that claim 1 of the '862 patent was invalid as indefinite, which the commission has reversed, and remanded to the ALJ to consider issues of infringement, validity and impact on domestic industry.

In May, the ALJ recommended to the commission a "cease and desist" order that prohibited the sale of any commercially significant quantities of Apple's accused products if it was found to violate, as the company held substantial inventories in the U.S. The order would be in addition to an import ban.

In a submission in the public interest in the investigation, FTC said in June it was concerned that a patent owner can make a commitment to license on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms as part of the standard setting process, and then seek an exclusion order for infringement of the FRAND-encumbered standards-essential patent as a way of securing royalties that may be inconsistent with the FRAND commitment.

FTC was also referring to another dispute before the ITC between Motorola and Microsoft over the Xbox.

Motorola also filed earlier this month another claim against Apple with the ITC, claiming that its devices such as the iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch infringe patents related to features such as email notifications, location reminders, and media players. Motorola said the new complaint for alleged violation of seven of its patents was not for standards-essential patents.

The ITC cases are only a part of the patent disputes between Apple and Motorola which have litigations in courts in many countries, after a surge in litigation by technology companies over patents.

Apple on Friday scored a win in one such dispute when a jury in a District Court in California decided that competitor Samsung must pay Apple US$1.05 billion for infringing several of its patents in Samsung smartphones and tablets.

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