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Friday, July 01, 2011, 06:00 pm PT (09:00 pm ET)

S3 Graphics granted partial victory in patent case against Apple

A U.S. International Trade Commission judge determined on Friday that Apple is infringing on two out of the four S3 Graphics patents the company is accused of violating, granting the graphics chipmaker an initial partial win.

ITC judge James Gildea found Apple guilty of infringing on three claims from two patents regarding "Fixed-rate block-based image compression with inferred pixel values," CNet reports. The initial decision will be reviewed by a six-member commission, with a final decision expected in November.

"S3 Graphics is pleased to win this portion of the ITC investigation," S3 Graphics CEO Dr. Ken Weng said in a statement.

The Fremont, Calif.-based company filed suit against Apple last May, accusing the company of violating four image-related patents. In January, Apple countersued with its own patent-related suit.

The four patents cited in S3's original 2010 complaint are:
If S3 Graphics were to win the final decision against Apple, the ITC could block imports of the company's hardware and software, though it's likely a settlement would be reached before reaching that stage. S3 licenses texture compression technology to several major companies, including Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo.

Earlier this week, the ITC issued a mixed decision in a patent case brought by Kodak against Apple. The commission found that the iPhone does not violate some of Kodak's key digital photography patents, though it did find Apple guilty of infringing two other patents. The decision also sent part of the ruling to an administrative law judge for review.

Apple has become the world's most-sued technology company in recent years and has shored up its in-house and outside legal teams to protect itself.

On Thursday, a consortium of companies including Apple, Microsoft and Research in Motion won an auction for 6,000 patents from bankrupt Canadian telecommunications company Nortel. The group paid $4.5 billion for the patents in a defensive move meant to block Google, other competitors and patent trolls from gaining leverage in a so-called intellectual property "arms race" to 4G wireless technology.