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Thursday, May 26, 2011, 07:25 pm PT (10:25 pm ET)

ITC agrees to partial review of Nokia case against Apple

The U.S. International Trade Commission announced Thursday that it will conduct a review of two of Nokia's patents in an infringement case against Apple, while dropping the remaining three from the investigation.

The ITC began its formal investigation into Nokia's claims in January of last year. Nokia alleged that Apple had violated seven of its patents in its iPhones, iPods and Mac line of products. The patents covered a range of features, including the user interface, camera, antenna and power management technologies.

Two of the patents were subsequently dropped from the investigation. Then, in March, an ITC judge ruled that Apple had not violated any of the five remaining patents.

As noted by Bloomberg, The ITC issued a notice on Thursday that it would review the judge's initial determination for just two of the patents. The other three patents will be "terminated" from the case.

The two patents under review are 6,895,256, Optimized camera sensor architecture for a mobile telephone, and 6,834,181, Mobile communication device and related construction method.

The six-member commission specifically asked Nokia and Apple to brief their positions on issues related to the two patents. "Does the claim term “multiple acoustic cavities each having an acoustic volume” recited in asserted claim 1 of the ’181 patent require each “acoustic cavity” to possess any particular acoustic property?" the notice reads. Also at issue is whether Apple's products satisfy the administrative law jude's limitations of the term “Integrated Mobile Terminal Processor” from the '256 patent.

The legal dispute between Nokia and Apple has been portrayed by analysts as a battle between "two goliaths" and is expected to take years to resolve. Nokia fired the first shot in October 2009 by suing Apple over several GSM and wireless LAN standards. Apple promptly countersued, alleging that Nokia had infringed on 13 of its patents.

After Nokia lodged a complaint with the ITC, Apple fired back with its own request that the ITC block the import of Nokia's products. The ITC formally agreed last February to investigate Apple's claims.

Last December, the ITC staff, acting as a third-party on behalf of the public, came out in support of Nokia. The staff recommendation, however, is not binding and will be reviewed by the ITC administrative law judge assigned to the case. Apple's case against Nokia is scheduled to be decided by June 24.

Nokia has turned to Microsoft for help in regaining some of its lost share of the mobile market. In February, the two companies announced a partnership to bring Windows Phone to Nokia devices. Microsoft is reportedly paying Nokia "billions of dollars" to abandon its Symbian platform.

Prior to the announcement, an internal memo from Nokia CEO Stephen Elop, who formerly served as the head of Microsoft's Office division, characterized Nokia's situation as that of a man "standing on a burning platform" who must dive into an icy sea to survive.