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ITC to review decision that cleared Apple of infringing on Motorola patents

The U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday announced that it will review an administrative law judge's decision that cleared Apple of infringing on certain Motorola patents, which in turn allowed the company to continue iPhone sales in the country.

Motorola Patent

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

Specifically, the commission will revisit the validity of a ruling from Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender, who in December cleared Apple of infringement after invalidating a patent owned by Motorola Mobility.

At issue is a proximity sensor patent that shuts off a handset's display when it is raised to a user's ear, thereby preventing errant touches and accidental hang ups. As noted by Bloomberg, the patent is the last assertion remaining in Motorola's case against Apple, as the ITC cleared the iPhone maker of infringing upon declared standards-essential 3G properties in August of 2012.

In his initial determination, Judge Pender found Motorola's U.S. Patent No. 6,246,862 for a "Sensor controlled user interface for portable communication device" was not substantially different from previous art. Motorola claimed that the earlier patent was limited to physical push buttons, while its own property covered touch screens used in modern smartphones.

With the review, the commission said it will focus on the exact meaning of the claim limitation "touch sensitive input device" as asserted in Motorola's patent language.

The six-member commission is scheduled to hand down its final decision on April 22.