Full ITC panel clears Apple of infringing on S3 patents

In a victory for Apple Inc., a full review panel at the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled (PDF) that Apple doesn’t violate any patents from S3 Graphics in either its iOS products or Macintosh computers. The ruling supersedes a preliminary finding last summer from a judge that cleared Apple of infringing on S3 patents in iOS products, but found Apple violated two S3 Graphics patents in Mac OS X. The new ruling from the full panel wipes the slate clean, clearing Apple of all infringement claims.

S3 has asked that Apple products violating its patents be banned from importation into the United States, a move which—if it had worked out—would have wreaked havoc on Apple’s core businesses.

The case is a skirmish in the larger battles over intellectual property in the mobile technology world. S3 Graphics is now owned by HTC, which bought the company and its patent portfolio back in July for $300 million largely to shore up its patent position in ongoing litigation with Apple: the companies have sued and countersued each other over alleged patent violations, with Apple’s suit against HTC being widely viewed as a proxy attack in lieu of suing Google directly over Android. Apple is also engages in high-profile litigation with Samsung over its Android devices, although many of the issues with Samsung actually center on the design of the devices themselves.

So far, Apple is generally coming out ahead against both HTC and Samsung: Apple has forced Samsung to withdraw its products from many markets and redesign them, and now HTC has lost its patent infringement claims against Apple based on intellectual property acquired from S3. The ITC is set to rule on a separate infringement claim between HTC and Apple in December; in that instance, the preliminary ruling was that HTC had violated two Apple patents.

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