Apple, HTC Cleared in U.S. Trade Tribunal Dispute Over Wireless Patents

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(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday affirmed a win for Apple Inc, HTC Corp and ZTE Corp against allegations that imports of their devices infringe wireless-technology patents.

The companies’ smartphones, smart watches, tablets and other LTE-capable devices do not violate INVT SPE LLC’s rights in two patents originally owned by Panasonic, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit said.

The companies and their attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

INVT is a patent-holding company affiliated with investment funds managed by Fortress Investment Group LLC, a SoftBank Group Corp subsidiary.

Fortress defeated a separate lawsuit last year brought by Apple and Intel that accused it and its affiliates, including INVT, of violating antitrust law by stockpiling thousands of patents and demanding extortionate licensing fees. Apple later dropped out of the case, which is currently on appeal.

INVT filed a complaint against Apple, HTC and ZTE at the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2018, accusing their devices that comply with the LTE wireless standard of infringing its patents. It sought a ban on imports of the allegedly infringing devices.

The commission ruled for the device makers in 2020. A three-judge Federal Circuit panel upheld the decision Wednesday.

U.S. Circuit Judge Raymond Chen wrote the devices did not infringe one of INVT’s patents because they functioned differently than what is described in the patent. The devices were not capable of receiving and handling data signals in the same way as INVT’s patented technology, the appeals court said.

The Federal Circuit also found the patent was not essential to the LTE standard, and that the devices did not infringe simply by being LTE capable.

The court found the rest of the appeal was moot because INVT’s other patent had expired. Apple and ZTE previously withdrew from this appeal.

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