updated 06:22 pm EDT, Mon April 22, 2013
Sensor to detect ear proximity patent deemed obvious by board
The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has tossed Motorola Mobile's final patent claim against Apple from its 2010 complaint. Google and Motorola Mobile were attempting to obtain a sales embargo on any iPhones using the technology. The patent asserted was a "sensor-controlled user interface for portable communication device" which gives mobile devices the ability to "lock out" screen touches when the phone is up to a user's ear while taking a phone call.
The move is the most recent binding one since an August's decision by that tossed out three other patents in the complaint by Motorola, leaving only the sensor-related one. In December 2012, Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender identified an infringement by Apple against this patent, but also found that the patent as invalid for "lack of novelty." The decision to evaluate Judge Pender's remand was ordered in February.
Today's commission filing mostly agrees with Judge Pender's ruling in December. While it didn't agree with the judge that the patent was not unique because of a different Motorola patent, it did agree with two arguments from Apple that the patent was invalid due to obviousness. The agreement with two of Apple's arguments make the decision more difficult to appeal for Google and Motorola.