ITC Agrees to Review 2nd S3 Patent Claim Against Apple

The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to review a second patent infringement suit brought against Apple by S3 Graphics. S3 accused Apple of violating two patents on September 22nd, and the ITC announced on Tuesday that it will investigate the complaint.

Apple vs. HTS & S3

S3’s first complaint against Apple involved four patents, and the ITC found that some Apple products violated two of those patents. It was at that point that Taiwan’s HTC corporation announced an agreement to buy S3 for US$300 million, a purchase intended to bolster HTC’s patent portfolio, as Apple has successfully accused HTC of violating some of its patents with its Android smartphones.

The situation is muddy, however. For one thing, the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office had already found that the claims S3 was trying to assert against Apple in two of its patents weren’t patentable, and that had happened before HTC agreed to buy the firm.

For another, it was then revealed that it was a subset of Apple’s Mac product line that was infringing, not the company’s larger line of iOS devices. On top of that, the infringement is mitigated by the use of certain third party graphics cards, meaning that switching to that line of graphics cards would end future infringement, which in turn means that the case doesn’t give HTC much leverage over Apple.

Then AMD stepped in and announced that S3 didn’t even own the patents in question because AMD had acquired them some ten years ago. That particular wrinkle is still wending its way through the courts and regulatory agencies of the U.S., and it’s anyone’s guess at this point how it will work out.

The new case filed by S3 on September 22nd is an entirely different case, however, and it is directly aimed at Apple’s iOS devices. S3 has a small patent portfolio compared to companies like Apple, but some consider aspects of that portfolio to be significant.