Apple Inc. is counting on the popularity of its devices and political pressure to thwart efforts by Google Inc.’s Motorola Mobility to block imports of the iPhone and iPad, two of the best-selling electronic devices in the U.S.
The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington is scheduled to announce today whether iPhones and other Apple devices infringe Motorola Mobility patents and, if so, whether it will stop them from being imported into the U.S. from Asia.
As part of its review, the ITC is weighing whether to limit use of import bans in disputes over patents that relate to industrywide standards. Some members of Congress, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and companies including Intel Corp. have urged such a step.
“I do not think, in the current legal and political climate, that there is any possibility that the iPhone will be excluded from importation,” said Rodney Sweetland, a patent lawyer with Duane Morris in Washington who specializes in ITC cases.
Motorola Mobility says Apple products infringe four patents, two of which relate to industry standards for 3G wireless and Wi-Fi technologies, and that Apple has rebuffed offers to license the standard-essential patents. The other two patents aren’t standard-essential, nor are the seven patents that are the subject of a new complaint Motorola Mobility filed Aug. 17.
Apple denies infringing the patents and contends they’re invalid. Even if the commission finds a patent violation, Apple says in filings that its devices shouldn’t be stopped at the U.S. border.
“The commission is under some political pressure not to keep ‘neat’ products out of the country,” said Scott Daniels of Westerman Hattori in Washington, who does ITC cases. “Normally, politics and Congress have very little impact on commission rulings. In the case of something so central to the economy, there could be an impact.”
A trade judge in April said Apple, which this week became the most valuable U.S. company in history, violated one patent that’s essential to 3G. The commission is reviewing his findings.
The iPhone’s $47.1 billion in sales and $20.4 billion in iPad sales together made up more than 62 percent of Cupertino, California-based Apple’s fiscal 2011 sales, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The second standard-essential patent in Motorola Mobility’s complaint also would cover Mac computers, the iPod Touch and Apple TV.