ITC Staff Member Sides with Nokia, HTC in Apple Suit

A staff member of the International Trade Commission has disclosed a belief that the ITC should side with HTC and Nokia in Apple’s patent infringement claim from March, 2011. Apple is seeking to ban the imports of HTC and some Nokia phones that run Google’s Android smartphone OS.

According to Bloomberg News on Monday, a staff attorney for the ITC, Erin Joffre, who acts on behalf of the public, believes that that HTC Corp and Nokia should not be found liable for infringing on Apple’s patents. The International Trade Commission (ITC) arbitrates international trade disputes, and the recommendation by Joffre’s staff is non-binding.

Apple considers five patents important for its iOS seamless integration of hardware and software, but HTC attorney Robert Van Nest (San Francisco) told the judge that these technologies, developed in the 1990s, are a narrow distinction from those developed by others.

“HTC is a smartphone innovator and pioneer in the smartphone sphere — they were there long before Apple,” Mr. Van Nest told the court. “The fundamental differences from the Apple patents represent choices made by HTC and Google.”

The disclosure was made just as hearings have begun in Washingtion D.C. before ITC judge Carl Charneski, who will release his findings on August 5. His findings could be further reviewed by the full six member commission. So Apple has not lost and will have plenty of time to make its case. The commission could bar imports of these phones if Apple wins.

A separate claim against Nokia is scheduled to be decided by the ITC by June 24.