Motorola wins first round ITC patent victory against Apple

Motorola Droid 4 - CES 2012

In an early victory for Motorola, an administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Motorola Droid smartphones do not infringe on three Apple patents. Although the case will now go to a full six-judge panel at the ITC for a final determination, the ruling is a setback in Apple’s efforts to cast a dark cloud over Android devices as a product “stolen” from Apple’s iOS and iPhone.

“We are pleased with today’s favorable outcome for Motorola Mobility,” said Motorola Mobility general counsel Scott Offer, in a statement. “Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to develop technology and build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio. We are proud to leverage this broad and deep portfolio to create differentiated innovations that enhance the user experience.”

Apple declined to comment on the ruling.

The legal spat between Apple and Motorola was actually started by Motorola; Motorola saw Apple targeting fellow Android device maker HTC and preemptively sued Apple for 18 alleged patent violations in October 2010. Apple quickly fired back, suing Motorola over multitouch technologies and user interfaces in Droid smartphones. The litigation has involved several suits in multiple U.S. states; all told, Apple has asserted Motorola violates some 24 Apple patents.

Motorola’s victory with the ITC follows on the heels of a patent victory over Apple in Germany, in which a court issued an injunction barring the sale of iPhones in a particular jurisdiction over a dispute about licensing Motorola cellular technology under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. However, Apple has been making progress against another Android device maker, HTC: the ITC recently ruled HTC was in violation a single Apple patent, although HTC says its devices will never be barred from import into the U.S. because it can remove the infringing technology.