USITC investigating Apple over alleged infringement of Maxell's patents

Credit: Apple

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The U.S. International Trade Commission announced on Wednesday that it is launching an investigation following a complaint by Maxell that Apple is infringing its patents.

Maxell, a Japanese consumer electronics company, has filed multiple patent lawsuits against the Cupertino juggernaut. On July 17, it also filed a complaint with the ITC.

In the complaint, Maxell asked the ITC to issue both a limited exclusion order and a cease and desist order, which would block Apple from importing infringing devices into the United States. On Wednesday, the ITC acknowledged the complaint and announced that it is starting an investigation into whether Apple's devices infringe on the Japanese company's intellectual properties.

"Notice is hereby given that a complaint was filed with the U.S. International Trade Commission on July 17, 2020, under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended, on behalf of Maxell, Ltd. of Japan. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 based upon the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, and the sale within the United States after importation of certain mobile electronic devices and laptop computers by reason of infringement of certain claims of U.S. Patent No. 7,203,517 ("the '517 patent"); U.S. Patent No. 8,982,086 ("the '086 patent"); U.S. Patent No. 7,199,821 ("the '821 patent"); U.S. Patent No. 10,129,590 ("the '590 patent"); and U.S. Patent No. 10,176,848 ("the '848 patent"). The complaint further alleges that an industry in the United States exists as required by the applicable Federal Statute."

In a notice of the probe published by the ITC, the Commission said that "mobile devices, tablets, smartwatches, and laptop computers sold under the Apple brand name" are included in the scope of the investigation.

The Japanese electronics company has accused Apple's devices of infringing on more than 10 of its patents, including some covering walking navigation, wireless communications, and passcode unlocks. The first lawsuit was filed in 2019, while the second was lodged in 2020. Both are still ongoing. In June, a judge granted a special order to remotely review Apple's source code.

The ITC has yet to announce when there will be a final determination in the probe, but said it will set a target date for completion within 45 days of the announcement on Aug. 19. Patent validity investigations can take years to complete.