ITC rejects Motorola touchscreen patent complaint against Apple

The decision is the last in a series from the 2010 case filed by Motorola

The U.S. International Trade Commission has found no evidence that Apple infringed on a Motorola Mobility patent covering a touchscreen function.

The finding ends an investigation that began in November 2010 when Motorola petitioned the ITC to ban imports of Apple products because they allegedly infringed a handful of Motorola patents. The ITC has already found no evidence of infringement by Apple on the other patents in question.

The finding covered U.S. patent 6,246,862, which describes a system that disables a touch user interface when a mobile communications device is brought close to the user's body. Such systems are commonly used in phones to prevent accidental activation of functions, for example when a phone brushes against a user's face.

"The investigation is terminated. A Commission Opinion will issue shortly," the ITC said in a notice.

The action against Apple came well before Motorola Mobility was acquired by Google, but is part of a wider series of battles between smartphone makers. The market for such phones is incredibly competitive and several companies have taken to the court system to seek an edge in the market.

Most patent disputes are filed in district courts, but the ITC is fast becoming popular because it can ban imports of devices into the U.S. Such a decision is rare but, if taken, can seriously impact a company's competitive position.

The case is Investigation No. 337-TA-745, "In the Matter of Certain Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music and Data Processing Devices, Computers and Components Thereof," at the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington, D.C.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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