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updated: 1/13/2012 4:16 PM

Apple loses ruling in Motorola Mobility case

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Apple Inc. lost a ruling in its efforts to block imports of Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. phones that run on Google Inc.'s Android operating system.

Motorola Mobility didn't violate Apple's patent rights, U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Theodore Essex said in a notice Friday on the agency's website. The findings are subject to review by the six-member commission, which can block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents.

Motorola Mobility, which agreed to be bought last year by Mountain View, California-based Google for $12.5 billion, was accused by Apple of infringing three patents, including two that cover touch screen technology. The case is part of a broader battle that Cupertino, California-based Apple has waged across four continents against makers of phones that run on Android, which the company claims copies features of the iPhone.

Apple last month received a mixed ruling in a trade commission case against Taoyuan, Taiwan-based HTC Corp., and is awaiting a decision on additional complaints against HTC and Suwon, South Korea-based Samsung Electronics Co.

While Apple is the largest manufacturer of smartphones, accounting for about 29 percent of the market, Google's Android operating system, which is licensed for free to device makers, powers more than half the smartphones in the world, according to data from Gartner Inc. and Nielsen Holdings NV.

Motorola Mobility, spun off from Motorola Inc. last year, filed three patent-infringement lawsuits and an ITC complaint in October 2010 targeting Apple's iPhone, iPad and MacBook computers. Apple retaliated about three weeks later with an ITC complaint that zeroed in on Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility's Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq, BackFlip, Devour and Charm phones.

One Apple patent issued in October 2010 and expiring in 2019 is for devices that can react to different types of manual input, such as tapping, sliding or pinching. A second, issued in February 2010 and expiring in 2024, is for a touch panel that can recognize multiple touches by the fingers of a user.

The third patent, which was issued in 1995 and expires in 2013, is for a way to add components without having to run an installation program or rebooting.

A trade commission judge in Motorola Mobility's case against Apple is scheduled to release his findings April 23.

The companies also have filed civil suits against each other on other patents, with one trial scheduled to begin in April in federal court in Chicago.

Motorola Mobility also is fighting with Microsoft Corp. over patented technology. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft claims Motorola Mobility refuses to pay royalties for use of patented technology, while Motorola Mobility has accused Microsoft of infringing patents on video-game systems.

Judge Essex last month said that Motorola Mobility infringed one Microsoft patent, and cleared it of violating six others. Both companies have filed petitions asking the commission to review the judge's determination.

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