Apple wins skirmish in Nokia patent war

WASHINGTON Fri Mar 25, 2011 6:43pm EDT

A young customer looks at Apple's iPad 2 at Zurich's Apple store after its official launch for direct purchase in Switzerland March 25, 2011. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

A young customer looks at Apple's iPad 2 at Zurich's Apple store after its official launch for direct purchase in Switzerland March 25, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Christian Hartmann

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Apple Inc won a round in its patent fight with Nokia on Friday as a U.S. trade panel judge ruled that the U.S. company did not violate any of five Nokia patents.

In its complaint, Nokia asked the trade panel to bar the importation of Apple devices that infringe Nokia patents, citing in particular the iPhone 3GS mobile phone and iPod Nano portable music player.

Judge James Gildea, of the International Trade Commission, which hears many patent cases, said in his initial determination that Apple did not violate the Nokia patents. The complaint had been filed in December 2009.

The next step will be for the entire commission to either uphold or throw out Gildea's decision. The target date for that decision is August 1, 2011.

In a separate decision on Friday, the ITC said it would review a judge's ruling that Research in Motion Ltd and Apple Inc did not infringe on Eastman Kodak Co patented technology. That final decision is expected in May.

Nokia said on Friday it was taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the ITC ruling in its fight with Apple.

"While Nokia does not agree with today's initial determination that there has been no violation, we'll wait to see the full details of the ruling before we decide on any next steps," said Nokia spokesman Mark Durrant.

The two companies are suing each other over patent issues in the United States and Europe. The ITC is popular because it can bar the import of infringing devices. Companion suits are often filed in U.S. district court to win financial damages.

"This gives the first strike to Apple in its case with Nokia but litigation will continue as ongoing patent suits reverberate around the mobile industry," said Ben Wood, head of research at CCS Insight.

Apple's iPhone and devices running on Android have carved out a large chunk of the lucrative and quickly expanding smartphone market, in large part at the expense of Nokia, which has stuck mainly to its old workhorse Symbian software.

In addition to the iPhone 3GS mobile phone and iPod, the complaint was directed at other iPhones, the iPod Touch, and iPod Classic portable music players, as well as the iMac, Mac Mini, Mac Pro, Mac Book, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air computers.

Apple's shares closed up 1.9 percent at $351.54. Nokia shares ended 0.3 percent lower at 5.97 euros before the decision was released.

The case at the ITC is 337-701.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; editing by Carol Bishopric, Bernard Orr)

(Additional reporting by Tarmo Virki in Helsinki)

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