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Apple cleared of infringing on Motorola patent in ITC case

A U.S. International Trade Commission judge issued a ruling on Tuesday exonerating Apple of infringing on a Motorola owned patent involving embedded proximity sensors in mobile handsets.

Motorola Patent

Illustration from Motorola's '862 patent showing a hidden IR proximity sensor (134, 136) located near the speaker.

In his initial determination, Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender found Motorola's U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 for a "Sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device" to be invalid, meaning Apple cannot be held in infringement.

The '862 patent covers and infrared proximity sensor that triggers a touchscreen display to shut off when a user's ear is detected, thus avoiding errant touch events. A similar, yet more advanced, system is used in Apple's iPhone line of products.

“We’re disappointed with this outcome and are evaluating our options,” Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson told Bloomberg.

As noted in Judge Pender's ruling, a full determination will be made public after both parties are able to review the document and redact confidential information.

The commission in August ordered Pender to consider a possible violation after it cleared Apple of Motorola Mobility claims related to other patents for 3G technology. This is the second time the judge has said there was no violation of the patent, which applies to a sensor used to determine the proximity of a person’s head to the device.
Google spent $12.5 billion to buy Motorola Mobility, in large part to obtain its trove of more than 17,000 patents so it had some leverage against Apple, which had been suing Google clients. Apple contends certain phones that run on Mountain View, California-based Google’s Android operating system copied unique features and the look of the iPhone.
The full determination by the judge will become public after both sides get a chance to redact confidential information.