Apple cleared of infringing Motorola patents, avoids U.S. import ban

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The U.S. International Trade Commission on Friday completed its review of a Motorola complaint from April, ruling against an import ban on Apple's iPhone and iPad after finding the devices do not infringe on certain wireless technology patents owned by the Google subsidiary.

Although not as substantial as Friday's Apple v. Samsung outcome, the six-member Commission at the top of the ITC cleared Apple of infringing on three declared standards-essential Motorola patents, but held off on another as it completed its review of an earlier initial determination, reports FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.

As for the fourth patent, a non-standards-essential property, the ITC remanded investigation to Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender, who initially found one of the claims indefinite and ruled it not violated. As noted by Mueller, the reversal of Judge Pender's initial determination could result in an import ban, though any judgment would again be subject to Commission review.

At issue is Motorola's 2001 U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 for a "Sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device." The patent describes a touch-based interface that can be disabled when a device comes into close proximity with a user. Apple employs similar technology in the iPhone by using an IR sensor to distinguish when the handset is near a user's head, thereby disallowing unintended touch events by disabling the unit's screen.

Friday's ruling comes just days after Motorola filed a second ITC complaint against Apple claiming infringement on seven non-standards-essential patents involving email management, message syncing and voice control services, among others. Of the asserted patents only one, a multi-device message syncing invention, has previously been asserted in court.