Trade judge rules Samsung infringed Apple phone patents

Next step by trade commission could block Samsung imports

Samsung is guilty of infringing four Apple patents, according to a ruling Tuesday by a U.S. trade judge. The legal victory is Apple's latest in its ongoing battle with arch rival Samsung.

The patent violations include one patent for the iPhone's design and another for touch-screen technology, according to Bloomberg's account of the ruling by U.S. International Trade Commission Judge Thomas Pender, in a notice posted on the commission's website.

SAMSUNG REACTION: Consumers lose. 

He also ruled that two other patents had not been infringed. One of those included a patent for the iPhone's exterior shape.

The ruling is subject to review by the full commission, according to Bloomberg, which reports that the ITC operates independently from the rules and standards used in the regular federal court system where a jury awarded Apple a billion-dollar judgment against Samsung in August. The ITC's role is "to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices, including patent infringement, and its only power lies in the ability to keep products from entering the U.S.," according to Bloomberg.

The news service also reported that Samsung has submitted to Judge Pender documents that outline proposed design changes in response to the four patents. That information is still confidential.

It's not clear what will happen next. The commission can, and has, blocked the importation of products that it's found infringing U.S. patents. Some HTC Corp. phones were blocked in May after Apple won its trade case against HTC; and the commission ordered Motorola Mobility, now part of Google, to remove a phone feature that violated a Microsoft patent.

A different ITC judge has concluded that Samsung's own patents are not being infringed by Apple. Samsung is appealing that ruling.

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