Several months ago, it looked like Apple was becoming unstoppable in the courts when it came to patent infringement suits against Android manufacturers -- at least abroad.
Yet, Apple has not really been as successful in its fight against Android over patents in the United States.
Today, the U.S. Trade Commission found that Motorola, in particular, does not violate Apple's patents on several of the Droid smartphones along with a few others, dealing a huge blow to Apple's seemingly global legal campaign.
CNET reports that the ruling is still a preliminary one, which needs to be approved by the full ITC commission.
Nevertheless, this isn't the first major loss in recent memory for Apple. In fact, the Cupertino company has hit several roadblocks in the last two months, possibly signaling a major turning point for the company's influence and power both in the U.S. and Europe.
Let's take a look at some other recent cases:
- Samsung made some slight adjustments to the Galaxy Tab 10.1, making it ready and fine for sale in the European Union -- despite Apple's inevitable dispute with the updated ruling. Furthermore, it was reported that all of the patent suits didn't really hamper Samsung sales at all, probably to Apple's chagrin.
- In December, Motorola secured a European Union-wide ban against the sales of iPhone and iPad sales, but that isn't being enforced yet.
- Also last month, Cequint, a unit of data communications service TNS Inc., is suing Apple over claims that the iPhone infringes upon two patents regarding caller identification technology. That case is still pending.
- Kodak has been fairly successful against Apple (as well as RIM) in patent suits in front of the ITC over two different cases. (Of course, Kodak has other problems to worry about, but that's another story entirely.)
- Italy just fined Apple for $1.2 million over misleading warranties. That's not patent related, but it's not exactly good news either.
- In a lesser known case, Apple was ordered to pay $5 million to chip and touchscreen maker Elan Microelectronics in a patent infringement suit relating to the iPad and iPhone as of last week.
On the flip side, Apple's opponents have been far less successful in securing and then enforcing bans against the sale of Apple products nearly anywhere. Apple also seems to be on a roll against HTC.
However, it's beginning to become very clear that Apple is not as untouchable nor unbreakable as it might have seemed a year ago.
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