Apple has lost the first round of its quest to ban Motorola Android devices from the United States, after the US International Trade Commission found Motorola was not infringing on three Apple patents.
The iPhone and iPad maker can still appeal against the ITC's initial determination but for now Motorola — in the process of being acquired by Android lead Google — is the winning side.
"We are pleased with today's favourable outcome for Motorola Mobility," Motorola general counsel and vice president Scott Offer said in a statement on Friday. "Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to develop technology and build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio."
Apple sued Motorola in November over the supposed infringement of several Apple patents in Motorola's Android smartphones. The suits were spread across multiple district courts and the ITC, which is becoming a favoured battleground for patent squabbles as it has the authority to cut off imports.
Motorola actually sued Apple first, and the initial determination in that case is due in April. Meanwhile, last month Microsoft won a separate ITC initial determination against Motorola, also over patents allegedly infringed in its Android smartphones.
Apple's ITC case against Motorola has centred on three patents, covering an 'object oriented system locator system', an 'ellipse fitting for multitouch surfaces' and, perhaps most crucially, the multitouch touchscreen itself.
The '607 patent, which describes a 'multipoint touchscreen' is but one of several Apple multitouch patents, but, as patent observer Florian Mueller pointed out on Friday, it is the broadest one Apple has and would be very difficult to work around if a judge upheld it.