Staff of the ITC is a third-party in the case, and does not necessarily represent a final outcome in the patent lawsuit, as noted by Bloomberg. But it is an early victory for Nokia, which is engaged in a major legal battle with Apple that is expected to last for years.
Nokia has challenged assertions that it infringes on Apple-owned patents related to the iPhone. It is also attempting to convince the commission that Apple's patents are invalid.
Apple has accused Nokia of infringing on 13 patents related to a variety of technologies, including graphical user interface and booting of a handset. Apple has also accused Nokia of attempting to obtain more money from it than other companies, and is attempting to obtain special licensing terms for patents related to open standards.
But ITC staff has determined that "some aspects" of Apple's patents are invalid, while others were not infringed upon by Nokia. Judge Charles Bullock is not, however, obligated to follow the staff's position in his findings, scheduled for release in February 2011.
The ITC trial began this week in Washington, and Apple has asked the commission to block the import of Nokia phones into the U.S. In addition, Nokia has its own separate suit filed with the ITC against Apple, and that trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 29.
The legal battle between Nokia and Apple is just one of a number currently underway in the highly competitive wireless industry. Just last week, Apple countersued Motorola, as each company has accused the other of patent violations.
Earlier this year, Apple also sued HTC, alleging that handsets running Google's Android mobile operating system are in violation of 20 iPhone-related patents. "We can sit by and watch competitors steal our patented inventions, or we can do something about it," Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs said. "We've decided to do something about it."