Motorola Beats Apple Again in ITC Patent Dispute

The International Trade Commission (ITC) this past week set aside three Apple patent-infringement claims against rival smartphone maker Motorola Mobility. And though this legal defeat is unlikely to change Apple's tactics against the Android horde, it's worth noting that this is the second such defeat Apple's had in as many months.

"The Administrative Law Judge ('ALJ') in the US International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled in favor of Motorola Mobility, finding no violation for any of the three Apple patents listed in Apple's suit," a Motorola press release notes. "The ALJ [found] no violation for any of the three Apple patents listed in Apple's suit."

Apple first sued Motorola Mobility in October 2010, claiming that the latter firm's smartphones—including the Droid, Cliq, and BackFlip, among others—violated three Apple patents. Two of those patents apparently involve touch-screen technologies, and the third concerns a deeper OS-level technology.

At the time, Motorola Mobility counter-sued, alleging that Apple was infringing on at least 18 of its patents, some of which are related to networking technologies, antenna design, sensors, and device synchronization.

Although the Motorola Mobility claims have yet to be tested, Apple's defeat at the hands of an ITC judge last week now stands on the record. Apple previously lost a similar patent-infringement claim against Motorola with the ITC, this time in Germany, in December 2011. ITC rulings are important because they can affect the import and export of products into various countries. But they're also drawn out long enough that the offending companies can typically modify their products enough to escape an actual sales ban.

Motorola Mobility, of course, owns a vast mobile-industry patent portfolio. This is the chief reason Android maker Google offered $12.5 billion to purchase the firm in August. 

"We are pleased with today's favorable outcome for Motorola Mobility," said Scott Offer, the company's senior vice president and general counsel. "Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to develop technology and build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio. We are proud to leverage this broad and deep portfolio to create differentiated innovations that enhance the user experience."

Like Microsoft, Apple has chosen to aggressively defend its own patent portfolio against Android handset makers, but unlike Microsoft, Apple has generally ignored the possibility of obtaining licensing pacts with its rivals and has instead attempted to ban the sales of their devices in numerous countries around the world. Aside from some temporary setbacks for Samsung, these efforts have been largely unsuccessful to date. Microsoft, meanwhile, recently celebrated its 11th Android-based patent licensee and now claims that over 70 percent of all Android devices sold are "receiving coverage" under Microsoft's patent portfolio. The software giant is widely believed to receive a $5 to $10 payment for each Android device sold.
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