ITC Staff: Nokia Hasn’t Violated Apple Patents

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Nokia hasn’t violated Apple’s patent rights, according to staff of the U.S. International Trade Commission, who testified to that effect in a trial between the two companies. Bloomberg reported that the testimony came as part of the staff’s role as advisors in such disputes.

The two companies are in the midst of a patent dispute, with Nokia accusing Apple of violating its cellphone patents with the iPhone, and Apple claiming Nokia has violated some of its patents on touchscreen interfaces.

ITC staff members testifying said that there is no evidence that Nokia has violated Apple’s patents, and that some aspects of the patents Apple is asserting aren’t valid to begin with.

As stated above, the ITC’s statement were made in an advisory capacity, and the facts of the case will be decided by Judge Charles Bullock, who is scheduled to release his findings in February of 2011.

ITC staff also recommended that if the judge does find that Nokia has violated Apple’s patents, that he block the importation of specific Nokia models into the U.S.

Apple vs. Nokia

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Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Invalid and inapplicable patents. Just wow. It will be interesting to see what the ITC staff does with Nokia’s claims. On the 3G patent suite, it’s going to have to find the patents invalid to not advise in Nokia’s favor.

Things are about to get interesting.

other side

Is there a route for Apple to appeal this?  Considering Apple has a nearly unlimited war chest, they have no choice BUT to fight this as far as they can.

OTOH, if some of Apple’s key touch patents get invalidated… yikes.


Well, the matter is even more complex.  Bloomberg is reporting on a proceeding before the ITC.  There is also a trial going on in a Delaware federal district court.  That court will makes its own findings of facts and enter a judgment on who infringed whose IP.  Personally, I think that this is crazy, to have two different bodies each with overlapping jurisdiction on the same dispute, the ITC and the federal district court.  But federal courts decide federal questions, which includes federal statutes, while the ITC is established by treaty and statute to enforce trade statutes and particularly, for present purposes, prohibit importation of items that infringe on IP.  However, it is the federal district court that will decided who has infringed whom for every other purpose.  It would be more efficient to let the matter be decided in the first instance by the federal courts, where the matters could be consolidated in the federal court that first has jurisdiction, but that is not how we do it. 

So the ITC could conceivably block imports of an infringing device, while the Federal District Court in Delaware could decide that same device is not infringing.  Such conflicts, if they occur, will then have to be decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. 

We’ve got quite a few more rounds to go in this fight, notwithstanding the staff report referred to supra.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Some interesting ITC facts:
* 744 cases since 1975.
* President can overturn ITC orders.
* ITC orders can also be appealed to Federal Court.
* 144 cases (almost 20%) initiated in the last 3 years. 372 cases (50%) initiated since 1995. This indicates a sharp recent uptick in cases, probably due to off-shoring of manufacturing.
* A random click-through sample indicates that many cases are “settled” by the parties without a decision by the ITC.

It would be interesting to have some real stats on the ITC since it has become obligatory in the mobile phone patent wars to file a parallel ITC complaint. All the data you need to make some pretty charts can be had at the first link.


A couple of more interesting facts.  Though the President can overturn a decision by the ITC’s Commission, I can’t remember a case where he has done so.  Also, the President cannot overturn a judgment of the federal courts on patents, trademarks, and/or copyrights made pursuant to applicable federal statutes that confer property rights on the holder of the IP.

The other matter of interest is reading exactly what the staff reports says, something which I probably won’t have time to do until later this week or on the weekend.  News reports tend to sensationalize certain headlines, while what the staff report actually says may be quite different.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

Nokia’s complaint against Apple has a scheduled hearing from November 29 to December 9. Tick-tick-tick-tick-tick…

Sam Oht

Technically, the President doesn’t overturn the decision but simply says “For policy reasons, I’m not going to give the complaining party (here, Apple) the relief that the ITC said it should get.” If the ITC decides the complaining party doesn’t merit relief, that decision never gets to the President’s desk. 

Reagan was the last president to decline to grant relief to a successful complainant.  It was in 1986 in a case brought by Texas Instruments and it involved DRAMs.


Thanks Sam.  In 1986, I had started training to do work similar to what I think Bosco does now and wouldn’t be admitted to the practice of law until five years later. 

And I don’t think that there is any chance that President Obama will go anywhere near this case.  The federal courts will ultimately decide this case, and quite possibly the U.S. Supreme Court, because the losing party will have to do everything that it can to prevail, including petitioning the Supreme Court to review and reverse any adverse decision on any item of IP that is essential to its ability to compete.

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