Apple loses first round in ITC case against Motorola

A judge issued a preliminary decision that Motorola doesn't infringe three Apple patents

Apple is on the losing end of an initial ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission in the company’s battle with Motorola.

On Friday, an administrative law judge at the ITC made an initial determination that Motorola does not infringe claims in three Apple patents. The ITC took on the case in November after Apple asked it to forbid Motorola from importing certain phones to the U.S. that Apple alleged infringe the patents.

The ruling is now subject to review by the full commission.

Apple declined to comment on the ruling. Motorola said it was pleased with judge's decision.

The ruling follows a win for Apple last month when the commission decided to block HTC from importing phones that infringe Apple patents. However, HTC said the ruling wouldn’t prevent it from importing phones into the U.S. because the company was able to remove technology from the phones so as not to infringe.

Apple and Motorola are also battling in courts in Europe, where German authorities recently awarded Motorola an injunction that would prevent the sale of Apple products in that country. However, the companies are still arguing over the injunction. In addition, Motorola has made a complaint against Apple with the ITC.

Motorola is also fighting in court with Microsoft over patents. The many legal disputes are taking a toll on Motorola. Last week the company issued preliminary financial results that were lower than expected. Motorola blamed the cost of patent lawsuits as well as increasing competition for the weak results.

Motorola recently agreed to be acquired by Google. The companies hope the deal will be completed soon.

Nancy Gohring covers mobile phones and cloud computing for The IDG News Service. Follow Nancy on Twitter at @idgnancy. Nancy's e-mail address is Nancy_Gohring@idg.com

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