HARDWARE DESIGNER Apple avoided a potential iPhone import ban on Monday in its ongoing patent case with Motorola.
A US International Trade Commission (ITC) judge ruled that Apple did not infringe a Motorola patent as the firm had claimed, instead ruling that the patent in question was invalid.
Motorola had lodged a complaint against Apple for allegedly infringing the patent back in 2010. The patent related to a sensor that prevents a phone from accidentally hanging up or activating an app when held up to a person's face. If Apple had been found to have infringed the patent, the firm could have seen an import ban slapped on its iPhone 4 handset in the US.
Apple had accused Motorola Mobility of breaching obligations to license some of its most widely used technology on fair terms. However, an ITC judge ruled on Monday that Motorola's patent was invalid not because of unfair licencing terms but because the sensor wasn't different enough from earlier inventions, adding that the patent was "too obvious".
A spokesperson for Google, which acquired Motorola Mobility in 2012 and has since added more charges against Apple in its case against the phone maker, said it is disappointed in the ruling, adding that the firm is "exploring its options".
It's unclear whether Google will appeal the ruling. If it does, this could see the patent case between Apple and Motorola extended, despite it ticking along for almost three years already.
Apple was not immediately available for comment. µ