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In ITC reversal, Apple found not to infringe HTC's S3 patents


The US International Trade Commission has dismissed the first complaint by graphics firm S3 against Apple, stating that "no violation" was shown and that its investigation into the complaint against Macs has been terminated.

The finding, reported by FOSS Patents blogger Florian Mueller, overturns a July ruling by ITC judge James Gildea, which determined that none of the S3 patents were relevant to Apple's iOS products, but that Mac OS X did infringe upon of one of the four S3 patents involved in the complaint. That patent involved a image compression technique.

Judge Gildea noted at the time that Macs using Nvidia graphics have an implied license to use the patent. His ruling required a six member ITC committee to uphold his decision in order for any action to be taken, including the potential of blocking of imports of affected Macs into the US.

Instead, the committee found no infringements by Apple at all, a clear setback for S3. The decision was likely influenced by AMD, which filed a motion in September to intervene and terminate the investigation on the basis that it, not S3, actually owned rights to the patent.

S3 was recently acquired by Taiwanese smartphone maker HTC, which hoped to use S3's patents as leverage in negating its way out of Apple's own patent infringement complaints targeting its use of Android.

A different judge ruled that HTC's own smartphones and Flyer tablet were infringing two Apple patents, and Apple has since brought a second suit against HTC, while HTC and S3 have both raised a second complaint of their own against Apple.

While HTC's S3 patents targeted technologies implemented within third party chips Apple uses in its Macs, Apple's patent complaints against HTC involve technical infringement core to the implementation of Android itself, meaning that if the patents are upheld by the ITC's committee, the finding could also be used against other Android makers, including Motorola and Samsung.