Nokia Gets Support of ITC Staff in Apple Smartphone Trial

Nokia Oyj shouldn’t be found liable of infringing Apple Inc.’s patents, the staff of the U.S. International Trade Commission said as a trial started.

“The evidence will not establish a violation” of Apple patent rights, the staff, which acts on behalf of the public as a third party in the case, said in a pre-hearing memo released yesterday. Apple is asking the ITC to block imports of Nokia phones into the U.S., claiming they are infringing four patents.

The trial that began yesterday in Washington is among a group of disputes at the ITC over the technology behind the burgeoning market for smartphones, which can perform some of the same functions as computers. Nokia has its own case against Apple; Apple is dueling with HTC Corp. and Motorola Inc. over phones that run on Google Inc.’s Android operating system; and Microsoft Corp. has a case pending against Motorola.

The Nokia phones at issue include ones that run on its Symbian operating system. Nokia is challenging both infringement and validity of the Apple patents, which include one for a way the device boots up and another related to power management.

The staff said that some aspects of the patents were invalid and others weren’t infringed. ITC Judge Charles Bullock is scheduled to release his findings in February and the staff said that if he does find there was a violation, he should recommend an order to ban imports of specific Nokia phones.

The judge isn’t obligated to follow the staff’s position. His ruling is subject to review by the six-member commission, which is scheduled to complete the investigation by June.

Proprietary IPhone Technology

The battles between Espoo, Finland-based Nokia and Cupertino, California-based Apple began a year ago, when Nokia filed a lawsuit accusing Apple of infringing 10 patents and demanding royalties on the millions of Apple iPhones sold since 2007.

Apple fired back with accusations that Nokia was trying to strong-arm Apple into giving Nokia access to proprietary technology that differentiates the iPhone from other smartphones. It also filed patent-infringement claims.

Nokia’s complaint against Apple is scheduled for trial beginning Nov. 29 in Washington, and additional Apple claims against Nokia are scheduled to be heard as part of the case against HTC in February.

The case this week is In the Matter of Mobile Communications and Computer Devices and Components Thereof, 337- 704, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net.

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