Nokia, Motorola, Apple Lawsuits Get ITC Attention

There's hardly a phone maker not keeping the ITC busy. Staff have ruled in favor of Nokia over Apple, and it has agreed to hear Motorola's complaints against Apple.

Mobile phone makers and their finger-pointing over potential patent infringements are keeping the U.S. International Trade Commission busy.

On Nov. 3, some good news came for Nokia, following the kick off of an ITC trial looking into complaints Apple made against the global handset leader, accusing it of infringing on a number of patents. In a prehearing statement, staff at the ITC said they found some of the patent accusations to be invalid, and that others weren't infringed upon, according to several media reports.

The staff added that if Judge Charles Bullock does find Nokia to be in violation of the patents, "he should ban some of Nokia's phones from being imported into the U.S.," the Wall Street Journal reported. Bloomberg added that Bullock is scheduled to release his findings in February, and that his ruling is subject to review by a six-member commission, expected to complete the investigation in June.

The legal back-and-forth between Apple and Nokia began in October 2009, when Nokia filed a complaint against Apple in U.S. District Court, accusing it of infringing on 10 patents for connectivity standards. Apple counter-sued, and each also took its case to the ITC. In September, Apple made the next move, filing a complaint with a court in Britain.

On Nov. 3, the ITC also ruled that it would investigate a complaint filed by Motorola against Apple, likewise accusing it of infringing on patents relevant to "electronic devices such as cell phones, portable music players, and computers" and calling on the ITC to ban the import of "video games and controllers that infringe" on the patents. (In similar-ish news, the ITC also agreed to investigate Nintendo, following a complaint by Motiva, which says patents for its controllers and video games have been infringed upon.)

Apple also has a counter-suit out against Motorola, which it filed against in a U.S. District Court in Wisconsin, alleging the technology in Android-running Motorola phones, such as the Droid, Droid X and Droid 2, infringes on six Apple patents dealing with the way users interact with handsets.

And finally, on Nov. 2, the ITC also ruled that it would investigate a complaint that Microsoft filed against, you guessed it, Motorola, accusing it, on Oct. 1, of infringing on patents related to "certain mobile devices, associated software and components thereof."

With smartphone adoption on the rise - the global handset market, largely dictated by smartphone sales, grew 14.6 percent during the third quarter, according to IDC, reaching shipments of 340.5 million units - the stakes are climbing, and there's hardly a handmaker without a complaint, or that hasn't been at the business end of one. In March, Apple also filed suits against HTC, the maker of a number iPhone-battling Android handsets, in both a U.S. District Court and with the ITC.

"We think competition is healthy, but competitors should create their own original technology, not steal ours," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in a statement at the time.

So far, the ITC has yet to officially rule on who's stealing what.

The trial of Nokia's suit against Apple, Bloomberg reported, is scheduled to begin Nov. 29.