U.S. agency seeks more information in patent case

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U.S. agency seeks more information in patent case

The U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday sought more information before deciding whether some Samsung Electronics devices infringe Apple patents and should be barred from entering the United States.

The Washington-based panel, in reviewing Apple’s case against Samsung, asked for additional arguments on three of the four patents that Judge Thomas Pender said were infringed, and comments on how an import ban would affect the public. The dispute involves smartphones and tablet computers.

Initiated in July 2011, the case is one of dozens of patent battles between the world’s two biggest makers of smartphones. Apple claims Samsung copies the look and ease-of-use features that distinguish its iPhone. Samsung has retaliated by alleging its rival uses fundamental data-transmission technology it controls without permission. The commission is scheduled to make a final decision in Samsung’s case against Apple on Friday.

Among the products that Cupertino, California-based Apple is seeking to block from the U.S. market are Samsung’s Nexus 4G, Replenish and Intercept mobile phones, and older models of its Galaxy Tab computer. The judge found that some of Samsung’s newer products, including the Galaxy S II and Galaxy Note, had worked around the patents. Samsung’s newest phone, the Galaxy S4 that began selling in April, wasn’t part of the case.

Samsung had almost 32 percent of the global smartphone market in the first quarter, ahead of Apple’s 17 percent, data from Bloomberg Industries and IDC show. The two companies are competing to be the top seller in the U.S. smartphone market, valued at $51 billion in 2012 by Neil Shah, an analyst with Newton, Massachusetts-based Strategy Analytics.

The ITC, which can block imported products from the United States, is scheduled to make a final decision in the Apple case against Samsung on Aug. 1.

Pender in October said Samsung infringed a design patent for the iPhone’s flat front face with wider borders at the top and bottom. Also found to be infringed were a feature patent for a multi-touch screen; another patent that covers the translucent images for applications displayed on a phone or computer screen; and one for a way to detect when headphone jacks are plugged in.

The commission ordered Pender to make additional findings regarding the patent on translucent images, and the judge said Samsung infringed two additional aspects of that patent. He also said that certain types of Samsung products don’t infringe part of the first headphone jack patent. Those findings were the subject of the order issued Tuesday.

The Apple case against Samsung is In the Matter of Electronic Digital Media Devices, 337-796, and Samsung’s case is In the Matter of Electronic Devices, Including Wireless Communication Devices, Portable Music and Data Processing Devices, and Tablet Computers, 337-794, both U.S. International Trade Commission. Bloomberg

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