Another win for Apple as ITC remands Motorola complaint for further judicial investigation

August 26, 2012
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Apple just made a clean sweep in the U.S. courts, with a “guilty” verdict for Samsung. The courts have granted Apple just over $1 billion in damages from patent infringement, and may further decide on a ban on offending Samsung products deemed to have infringed on Apple’s iPhone patents.

Apple is also winning in other fronts — or at least it is at an advantage in other trade-related concerns. While Motorola is seeking an injunction on the importation of the iPhone and iPad to the U.S., the decision on whether to impose a ban might take a while.

Recall that Motorola has filed a petition with the International Trade Commission to ban imports of the iPhone and iPad into U.S. soil due to patent infringement. It turns out that the ITC has cleared Apple with respect to three of the four patents-in-suit.

However, the ITC says that upon an initial determination, Apple may have infringed on a non-standard essential patent, which could potentially lead to an import ban. In particular, the said patent is for  the “sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device.”

The ITC, however, has decided to remand further action and investigation on the matter to Administrative Law Judge Thomas B. Pender, reports FOSS Patents.

Apple was cleared with respect to three of Motorola’s patents-in-suit, including the aforementioned standard-essential one. But with respect to U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 on a “sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device”, a non-standard-essential patent, the investigation was remanded to Administrative Law Judge Thomas B. Pender. The judge had found claim 1 of that patent indefinite and, as a result, not violated. The ITC has reversed his indefiniteness finding. As a result, there could (but need not) be a finding of a violation with respect to this patent, and an import ban.

While this might initially seem a win for Motorola and Google, the problem here is timing. An initial determination by the judge will still be subject to a review by the ITC. The entire process could take at least one year. With that, whatever damages ensuing from the alleged patent infringement would have already been moot, especially since iPhones and iPads will continue to be sold in the U.S.

Apart from this particular patent-related complaint, Motorola has lodged another lawsuit with the ITC, alleging that Apple has infringed on seven technology patents. Motorola is again asking the commission to impose a ban on the importation of Apple products.

It’s an all-out war in the patent realm, and Apple has scored the biggest win, so far. Everything else seems to be peripheral, in comparison to $1 billion. Is the current patent system helpful in ensuring the viability of  inventions? Or is patent litigation only hurting innovation?

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