The ITC has ruled that Apple has not infringed on a patent owned by Google's Motorola Mobility unit.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) has decided that a patent which covers a proximity sensor -- which prevents phone users from accidentally dialing the wrong numbers -- cannot be used against Apple in mobile product disputes.
ITC Administrative Law judge Thomas Pende ruled that the patent is "invalid," according to Reuters in an initial determination -- which means the ruling is not the final decision and must be reviewed further.
Therefore, Google's Motorola Mobility unit cannot use this patent against tech giant Apple, and the firm maker has been cleared of patent infringement concerning the iPhone.
"We're disappointed with this outcome and are evaluating our options," Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Weyrauch-Erickson told the news agency.
In August, Apple was cleared of violating three Motorola-owned patents, and the ITC asked the judge to further examine the proximity sensor. Now Pender has ruled that the patent is invalid, the six-member commission will review the decision, and choose whether to finalize the order.
Google finalized the acquisition of Motorola Mobility this year for $12.5 billion, purchased partly due to its vast hoard of telecommunications patents, which further complicates the process as the tech giant is the developer of the Android operating system, the strongest rival against Apple's iOS.
The ITC is a popular American venue for these types of lawsuits as it has the power to prevent products that infringe on patents and stop them being exported, as civil lawsuits can be brought against firms at the same time that ITC cases are open.