Samsung Electronics Co lost the first round of a US trade case brought by Apple Inc, its second big loss this year in the US as the companies battle worldwide over smartphone and tablet computer technology.
Samsung infringes four patents, including one for the front face of the iPhone and one for touch-screen technology co-invented by Steve Jobs, US International Trade Commission (ITC) Judge Thomas Pender said in a notice on Wednesday on the agency’s Web site.
The judge’s findings are subject to review by the full commission, which has the power to halt products at the US border and is scheduled to finish its investigation by Feb. 25.
The case is one of more than three dozen between the makers of about half of the world’s smartphones. Samsung, which lost a US$1 billion jury verdict in August against Apple, is challenging a different ITC judge’s findings that its own patents were not infringed by Apple.
The South Korean company has had more success in other countries, including a victory yesterday in The Hague.
The judge’s findings will become public after both sides get a chance to redact confidential information. If the commission agrees with Pender and orders a halt on imports, the action would be reviewed by the US president, who can overturn the ban on public policy grounds. An appeals court would review the overall case.
“If left to stand, this initial determination could lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices for the American consumer,” said Adam Yates, a US-based spokesman for Samsung.
“We remain confident that the full commission will ultimately reach a final determination that affirms our position that patent law must not be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies,” he said.
Apple had no immediate comment on the ruling.
The design patent found to be infringed is for the flat front face with wider borders at the top and bottom and a lozenge-shaped speaker slot above the display screen. The other, in which no violation was found, is for the shape of the phone.
The Jobs patent is being reviewed by the US Patent and Trademark Office to confirm whether it covers a new invention.
Also found to be infringed were a patent that covers the translucent images for applications displayed on a screen, and one to detect when headsets are plugged in.
A second patent for headset-jack detection was not violated, the judge said.
Samsung has had better success outside the US in its legal clashes with Apple.
In addition to a non-infringement ruling from The Hague, a Tokyo judge in August ruled that Samsung did not infringe Apple’s Japanese patent for synchronizing music and video data.
Apple was ordered to post apologies on its UK Web site for claiming that Samsung’s Galaxy tablet computers copied a design for the iPad when a London court found they had not.
A South Korean court in August said both companies had violated each other’s patents on some phones and tablet computers.