Apple Inc won a round of a US International Trade Commission case brought by Samsung Electronics Co over patented technology in the iPhone and iPad tablet computer, its second US legal victory in a month over its largest smartphone competitor.
Apple did not violate Samsung’s patent rights, ITC Judge James Gildea said in a notice posted yesterday on the agency’s Web site. The judge’s findings are subject to review by the full commission, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe US patents.
The judge’s findings follow a federal jury’s ruling in San Jose, California, on Aug. 24 awarding Apple more than US$1 billion in damages, after deciding that Samsung copies the look and some features of the iPhone. The California jury rejected claims that Apple infringed other Samsung patents.
“Apple at the ITC is bulletproof,” said Rodney Sweetland, a lawyer at Duane Morris in Washington, who specializes in trade cases. “Nobody can get any traction against them there. The lesson is, if you want to get relief against Apple, it’s going to have to be in a foreign forum where it doesn’t have the clout or the cachet it has at the ITC or the northern district of California.”
Gildea said there was no infringement of any of the four patents in the ITC case, and also determined that Samsung had not proven it had a domestic industry that used the patents, a requirement that is unique to the trade agency. The judge did not provide the reasons behind his findings. The opinion is to become public after both sides get a chance to 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,” Samsung spokesman Adam Yates said. “We are proud of our long history of innovation in the mobile industry and will continue to defend our intellectual property rights.”
Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, said the company had no comment. Apple has previously won cases brought against it at the trade agency by HTC Corp (宏達電) and Google Inc’s Motorola Mobility, two other manufacturers of phones that run on Google’s Android operating system. Apple lost its case against Motorola Mobility, and won an order that forced HTC to remove a feature from its phones.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, has its own ITC complaint pending against Samsung, and the judge in that case is scheduled to release his findings on Oct. 19. The two companies, which together make about half the smartphones sold in the world, are embroiled in more than 30 lawsuits spanning four continents.
“From a corporate perspective, Samsung needs to get an upper hand and they need to bring their A game,” said Will Stofega, program director at Framingham, Massachusetts-based researcher IDC. “There are a lot of things that they have going for them. They are a very valid and creative company.”