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By Susan DeckerSept. 14 (Bloomberg) — Apple Inc. won a round of a U.S. International Trade Commission case brought by Samsung Electronics Co. over patented technology in the iPhone and iPad tablet computer, its second U.S. legal victory in a month over its largest smartphone competitor.
Apple didn’t violate Samsung’s patent rights, ITC Judge James Gildea said in a notice posted on the agency’s website. The judge’s findings are subject to review by the full commission, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents.
The judge’s findings follow a federal jury’s ruling in San Jose, California, on Aug. 24 awarding Apple more than $1 billion in damages, after finding that Samsung copies the look and some features of the iPhone. The California jury rejected claims that Apple infringed other Samsung patents.
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 didn’t provide the reasons behind his findings. The opinion will be public after both sides get a chance to redact confidential information.
Kristin Huguet, a spokeswoman for Apple, said the company had no comment.
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 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.
Each company is citing patented inventions to claim its products are better, while labelling its competitor as a copycat. They want to grab a greater share of a market that Bloomberg Industries said grew 62 per cent to $219 billion last year. Samsung is the world’s largest maker of smartphones, while Apple dominates in the U.S.
The iPhone generated $16.2 billion in sales for the quarter ended June 30, about 46 per cent of Apple’s total revenue, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Apple introduced a newer version of the iPhone on Sept. 12 that has a bigger screen, faster chip and access to speedier wireless networks.
The phone is assembled in China by Foxconn Technology Co. The iPad garnered $9.2 billion and the iPod brought in $1 billion.
Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung filed the trade complaint in June 2011, claiming Apple devices — including the iPhone, iPad tablet computer and iPod touch media player — have infringed as many as four patents.
Two of the Samsung patents cover technology used in industrywide standards for the transmission of data. The other two are for device features — one to detect phone numbers in an e-mail or Web page, and another in which the document display page moves with the user’s finger.
Samsung has about 140,000 patents worldwide on things like light-emitting diodes, computer-memory chips and televisions. It’s been in the mobile-phone market since the 1980s, and is counting on that history to get an upper hand in its global fight with Apple.
The company makes the microprocessor that is the main brain of the iPhone, making the company Apple’s largest component supplier. Samsung contends that Apple incorporated other, non- licensed features developed by Samsung into the iPhone when it was introduced in 2007.
Apple said that Samsung never brought up any allegations of infringement until it approached Samsung in 2010 with accusations that Samsung’s newest phones running on Google Inc.’s Android operating system were copying the iPhone.
Three of the Samsung patents involved in the ITC case were issued before the iPhone was first sold, and the fourth, related to the way documents are displayed, was bought by Samsung in 2009, Apple lawyers said at the beginning of the trial.
Apple also argued that Samsung had exhausted its rights to claim infringement of the so-called standard-essential patents, because the products use chips made by Intel Corp., which has a licence with Samsung. The jury in San Jose sided with Apple on that question as it related to other Samsung patents and the Intel licence.
The issue of how to handle patents related to industry standards has arisen in other cases before the trade agency, with no clear resolution. Companies that help establish standards that let various devices work with each other pledge to licence their relevant patents on fair and reasonable terms.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission, in a filing with the ITC on other cases, argued that such patents should be treated differently than other patents, and any dispute over licensing fees should be resolved in district court.
Most of the patents asserted in the legal battles over smartphones and tablet computers don’t involve standard- essential patents.
Samsung’s case against Apple is In the Matter of Electronic Devices, Including Wireless Communication Devices, 337-794, and Apple’s case against Samsung is In the Matter of Electronic Digital Media Devices, 337-796, both U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
–With assistance from Adam Satariano in San Francisco and Jun Yang in Seoul. Editors: Bob Drummond, Bernard Kohn
To contact the reporters on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at [email protected];
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at [email protected]
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