Apple Inc. (AAPL:US)’s iPhone didn’t violate patent rights owned by Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Motorola Mobility for a sensor that prevents accidental hang-ups, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge said today.
The patent is invalid, ITC judge Thomas Pender said in a notice posted on the agency’s docket. The judge’s findings are subject to review by the full commission, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents.
“We’re disappointed with this outcome and are evaluating our options,” Jennifer Erickson, a spokeswoman for Motorola Mobility, said in an e-mail.
The commission in August ordered Pender to consider a possible violation after it cleared Apple of Motorola Mobility claims related to other patents for 3G technology. This is the second time the judge has said there was no violation of the patent, which applies to a sensor used to determine the proximity of a person’s head to the device.
Google spent $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, in large part to obtain its trove of more than 17,000 patents so it had some leverage against Apple, which had been suing Google clients. Apple contends certain phones that run on Mountain View, California-based Google’s Android operating system copied unique features and the look of the iPhone.
The full determination by the judge will become public after both sides get a chance to redact confidential information.
Kristin Huguet, an Apple spokeswoman, said the company had no comment.
Apple lost a separate case that it had filed against Motorola Mobility at the Washington agency. The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker is challenging that decision at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The two companies have fights in the U.S. and Europe over patented inventions related to smartphones. Some district court cases, including one in which Apple accused Motorola Mobility of breaching obligations to license its patents on reasonable terms, were thrown out and also are on appeal with the Federal Circuit. Others are pending in federal court in Florida.
The case is In the Matter of Certain Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music Data, Processing Data Devices, Computers and Components Thereof, 337-745, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
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