updated 11:04 am EDT, Sat August 25, 2012
Fourth patent remanded to judge, further hearing next year
Hidden in the shadow of the Samsung versus Apple verdict, the US branch of the International Trade Commission (ITC) wrapped up its review of an initial ruling in April that found Apple in infringement of a wireless patent held by Google-owned Motorola Mobile. In the final decision, Apple was reaffirmed not infringing on three of four patents, and the fourth patent that was previously ruled infringing has now been sent to Administrative Law Judge Thomas B. Pender for a decision.
The fourth patent Apple may (or may not) be in violation of is US Patent number 6,246,862, covering a "Sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device." The patent addresses the sensor installed in the top of the phone, preventing accidental activation of touchscreen items when the phone is up to the user's ear for a phone call.
A remand to the judge is likely to take a year or more, and following review, will be subject to a Commission review. However, since the patent in question -- known informally as '862 -- isn't a standards-essential patent. Judge Pender isn't required to take a position on the issue of import bans. Should the ITC take no action, the matter would likely either be added to an existing patent lawsuit, or a new one may begin.
This review is the latest move in the Apple versus Motorola (and, by proxy, Google) ITC complaints started last year. In the initial ruling, the ITC found most of Motorola's patents to be standards-essential, meaning they should not be able to use them as weapons in legal battles.
As a result of the hearings, Motorola and Google are being investigated by the Federal Trade Commission for violations of fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing of standards-essential patents. Motorola filed another complaint against Apple earlier this month with seven patents related to Siri, location reminders, email notification, and phone video players.