ITC Says It Will Formally Investigate Motorola’s Patent Complaint Against Apple

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Almost exactly a month ago, Google’s Motorola Mobility filed a patent-infringement lawsuit against Apple with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in Washington. Today, the ITC announced its decision to institute a formal investigation of Motorola’s claims. The suit, which aims to block Apple from importing virtually all of its current hardware to the U.S., alleges that Apple’s devices are infringing upon seven Motorola patents. It’s worth noting that this lawsuit wouldn’t affect the upcoming iPhone 5, the older iPhone 4S, or the new iPad with 4G connectivity, as these devices use different chipsets that fall outside of Motorola’s patent claims.

As FOSS Patent’s Florian Mueller notes, the patents involved in this suit aren’t standard-essential ones, which actually gives Google/Motorola a small chance that the ITC could indeed grant it the import ban it is asking for.

Apple, of course, recently won just over $1 billion in its patent lawsuit against Apple, and virtually every major player in the mobile industry is currently involved in similar patent lawsuits. For Motorola, though, this suit against Apple is the company’s first aggressive move since its acquisition by Google. With this acquisition, Google also gained access to Motorola’s over 17,000 patents and as the patent wars continue to escalate, these patents now allow Google to play a far more aggressive role to defend Android and its other mobile projects. It will likely take a least a year for the ITC to decide the current case, however.

Here is the full statement from the ITC:

September 18, 2012
News Release 12-100
Inv. No. 337-TA-856

USITC INSTITUTES SECTION 337 INVESTIGATION ON CERTAIN WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICES, PORTABLE MUSIC AND DATA PROCESSING DEVICES, COMPUTERS, AND COMPONENTS THEREOF

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain wireless communication devices, portable music and data processing devices, computers, and components thereof. The products at issue in this investigation are certain Apple iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Apple personal computers.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Motorola Mobility LLC of Libertyville, IL, Motorola Mobility Ireland of Bermuda, and Motorola Mobility International Limited of Bermuda, on August 17, 2012. The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain wireless communication devices, portable music and data processing devices, computers, and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainants. The complainants request that the USITC issue an exclusion order and a cease and desist order.

The USITC has identified Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA, as the respondent in this investigation.

By instituting this investigation (337-TA-856), the USITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case. The USITC’s Chief Administrative Law Judge will assign the case to one of the USITC’s six administrative law judges (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.

The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time. Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation. USITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.