ITC Will Review Apple's Innocence in Samsung Complaint

Apple in the CourtsA full panel of judges at the U.S. International Trade Commission will review a September decision by Administrative Law Judge E. James Gildea that found Apple did not infringe on four Samsung patents. The decision to review Judge Gildea's ruling could result in it being reversed or upheld, but the panel might also be focusing on the role that standards essential patents (SEPs) play in import bans.

The panel asked the parties involved to submit briefings on how it should consider SEPs, according to Reuters. This has been a hot button topic among regulatory bodies as Apple's competitors have tried to use SEPs to combat Apple's design and utility patents.

There are no official rules or guidelines on this issue, just as there aren't any hard and fast rules governing how much patent holders should charge when licensing their SEPs under what are supposed to be fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms. Apple has accused its competitors of not honoring those FRAND commitments.

Enter this ITC complaint, which was originally decided in September by Judge Gildea. In this complaint, Samsung accused Apple of infringing on four of its patents, two of which are SEPs. Judge Gildea found that Apple was innocent of such infringement.

The judge further concluded that there is no domestic industry for any of the four patents, something that is required for a valid ITC complaint. A domestic industry evaluation by the ITC comprises two “prongs:” economic and technical.

A patentee seeking ITC protection must meet the economic prong by showing that it has significant investment in the United States via a manufacturing plant, ownership of equipment, workers, or capital investments related to the business. Domestic engineering, R&D, or licensing can also suffice. Samsung could not meet this requirement, according to Judge Gildea.

This is just one of many patent complaints between these two companies, complaints that include lawsuits in courts around the world as well as the ITC.

Jim Tanous contributed to this article.