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Apple vs Nokia not as wrapped up as it appears

ITC staff advice only applies to handful of patents

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Yesterday staff at the ITC said that Nokia wasn't infringing on some Apple's patents, but the war is far from over as the important ones had already been transferred out.

The staff at the International Trade Commission were only expressing an opinion, a judge will still need to rule, but regardless of that the case only relates to four of the nine patents Apple reckons Nokia is infringing. The other five have already been thrown into Apple's ongoing spat with HTC, as FOSS rep Florian Mueller explains in his blog.

Apple originally accused Nokia of infringing nine patents, and took a separate case against HTC for infringing 14 patents it owns. Five patents were common to both cases. Nokia and HTC asked to have the cases combined, but the ITC decided that the five common patents should be removed from the Nokia case and Nokia should be added as a defendant in the Apple vs HTC case. That left only the four weakest patents in the Apple vs Nokia case. It was on the issue of these patents that the staff expressed their opinion. Critically those patents don't include the touch-screen stuff, which is where the real disputes lie.

These are all ITC cases. Despite its name the ITC is an American body that has the power to ban the import, to the USA, of patent-infringing kit. So these cases are separate from, although parallel to, the various court cases which are going on. The court cases will take a lot longer, which is why everyone goes running to the ITC these days - a ban on US imports focuses the mind wonderfully.

Anyone having trouble keeping up might find the diagram from Design Language News useful - it's a little out of date, being a month old, but most of the important stuff is there.

It's going to get worse too. Historical players have huge patent portfolios to wield, and aren't taking kindly to having their technologies ripped off, while new players want to protect their innovations as that's all they've got. It will be decades before the dust settles and we can find out who the winners are, aside from the patent lawyers of course. ®

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