Motorola Mobility Inc did not violate Apple's patented technology in making its Droid, Cliq, BackFlip and other smartphones, a judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission said in a preliminary decision issued on Friday.
The full ITC will issue a final decision in March.
Apple had filed a complaint with the ITC in October of 2010, accusing Motorola Mobility of infringing three Apple patents to make its smartphones.
Two of the patents have to do with how the devices accept manual input when users type or handwrite on them while the third relates to ways for consumers to add applications without jumping through hoops like rebooting the smartphone.
The complaint, like many patent battles focusing on smartphones, is part of a larger fight between Apple and Google Inc's fast-growing Android operating system, which Motorola uses.
The ITC is a popular venue for patent disputes because it can order devices made with infringing technology barred from importation.
Google has reached an agreement to buy Motorola Mobility, and is seeking the antitrust approval needed to close the sale.
(Reporting By Diane Bartz; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)