By Alexandra Burlacu | Sep 15, 2012 01:53 PM EDT
Apple scored its second U.S. victory in a month against Samsung Electronics, its largest smartphone rival, as the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) ruled that Apple's iPads, iPhones, and iPods do not violate four Samsung patents.
In a notice posted Friday, Sept. 14, on the agency's Web site, ITC Judge James Gildea said that Apple did not violate Samsung's patent rights. The ruling is preliminary, however, as the judge's findings are subject to review by the full commission, which has the authority to block imports of products infringing U.S. patents.
The judge said there was no infringement on any of the four patents in the ITC case, and determined that Samsung had not met a requirement that is unique at the trade agency: proving that it had a domestic industry that used the patents. Gildea did not detail the reasons behind his findings, but the opinion will become public once both sides redact confidential information.
"We remain confident that the full commission will ultimately reach a final determination that affirms our position that Apple must be held accountable for free-riding on our technological innovations, said Samsung spokesman Adam Yates. "We are proud of our long history of innovation in the mobile industry and will continue to defend our intellectual property rights."
Gildea's findings follow a federal jury's ruling on Aug. 24 in San Jose, California, awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages after deciding that Samsung copied the iPhone's look, as well as some features. The California jury also rejected claims that Apple infringed on Samsung patents.
Apple has previously won cases brought against it at the ITC by HTC and Google's Motorola Mobility, two phone manufacturers that use Google's Android mobile operating system. Apple lost its own case against Motorola Mobility, but won an order forcing HTC to remove a feature from its smartphones.
South Korean Samsung filed the trade agency complaint in June 2011, claiming that Apple products, including the iPhone, iPad, and iPod Touch, have infringed four of its patents. Two of those patents cover technology used in industry-wide standards for data transmission, while the other two are for device features - one to detect phone numbers in a Web page or an e-mail, and another enabling the document display page to move with the user's finger.
Meanwhile, Apple has its own case pending against Samsung, with the judge due to release his findings on Oct. 19. The two giants, which together make roughly half the smartphones sold worldwide, are engaged in a global patent battle spanning four continents. Each company is citing patented inventions, claiming its products are better, while accusing the other of playing copycat. While Samsung is the world's largest smartphone maker, Apple still dominates the U.S. market.
Samsung is also Apple's largest component supplier, and makes the microprocessor powering the iPhone. The South Korean company claims that Apple incorporated other, non-licensed features developed by Samsung into the iPhone when it was first launched back in 2007. At the trial before Gildea, Apple argued that Samsung never mentioned any allegations of infringement until 2010, when faced with accusations that its newest phones running on Google's Android OS were copying the iPhone.
Samsung's case against Apple is In the Matter of Electronic Devices, Including Wireless Communication Devices, 337-794. Apple's case against Samsung is In the Matter of Electronic Digital Media Devices, 337-796. Both cases are at the U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
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