ITC Rules Mac OS X Violates S3/HTC Patents, Clears iOS



The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) revealed on Tuesday that Apple is violating patents once owned by S3 Graphics with Mac OS X, but the commission cleared iOS of any infringement, according to Bloomberg. HTC, a company that recently lost a patent infringement ruling from the ITC, is currently the owner of those S3 patents, which means the ongoing legal battle between the two companies is ratcheted up a notch.

Apple vs. HTC

The patents involved cover image-compression technology, and the initial ruling that found Apple in violation was handed down on July 1st. The details of that ruling were not released until Tuesday, however, when Apple requested that the infringing products be named.

While the full details still have not been released, Administrative Law Judge James Gildea said on Tuesday that Macs that shipped with graphics cards and GPUs purchased from Nvidia have an implied license, meaning that only those Macs that shipped with graphics cards from ATI infringed upon S3’s patents.

As is the case with other patent cases being fought out in the ITC, the ruling handed down by Judge Gildea is subject to review by the full six-member Commission, and any decision from that body is then subject to appeal.

HTC purchased S3 on July 6th, five days after the ruling against Apple. The US$300 million deal was widely seen as an effort by HTC to boost its patent portfolio, and strengthen its hand against Apple in the ongoing patent battle with Apple.

On July 15th, the ITC ruled that all of HTC’s Android smartphones violate two of Apple’s own patents, a ruling that could theoretically lead to a ban on those smartphones from entering the U.S. The same is true about the ruling against Apple — it could theoretically lead to some Macs being banned from import, though it’s more likely to result in damages and licensing fees that will be paid to HTC, now that it owns the S3 patents.