On April 19, 2012, the International Trade Commission (the “Commission”) issued the public version of its opinion affirming the initial determination of no violation of Section 337 in Certain Portable Electronic Devices and Related Software (Inv. No. 337-TA-721).

By way of background, the Complainant in this investigation is HTC Corporation (“HTC”) and the Respondent is Apple, Inc. (“Apple”).  On December 21, 2011, ALJ Charles E. Bullock determined in his Initial Determination (“ID”) that no violation of Section 337 had occurred by Apple in the importation into the U.S., sale for importation, or sale within the U.S. after importation of certain portable electronic devices and related software.  Specifically, the ALJ found that Apple did not infringe various claims of U.S. Patent Nos. 6,999,800 (the ‘800 patent), 5,541,988 (the ‘988 patent), 6,320,957 (the ‘957 patent), and 7,716,505 (the ‘505 patent).  ALJ Bullock also found that the asserted claims are not invalid.  Lastly, the ALJ found that a domestic industry exists with respect to the ‘988 and ‘957 patents, but not with respect to the ‘800 and ‘505 patents.  See our January 5, 2012 post for more details. 

HTC filed a petition for review of the ID, and Apple filed a contingent petition for review.  HTC challenged the ALJ’s infringement findings and claim constructions with respect to the ‘800 patent.  Apple argued that the accused iPhones and HTC’s domestic industry products do not meet the requirements of the ‘800 patent or, alternatively, that the claims are invalid.  The Commission determined to review the final ID with respect to the ‘800 patent and requested briefing on several issues.  See our December 20, 2011 post for more details.

The technology at issue in the ‘800 patent is directed to the power management of smartphones, and the accused products are Apple models of the iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.  The ALJ’s final ID only addressed two elements of claim 1, and having found that both element were not present in the accused devices, did not analyze the claim further. The Commission opinion addresses the same two claim elements, 1f and 1g.

Element 1f of claim 1 is “switching the PDA system from normal mode to sleep mode when the PDA system has been idle for a second period of time.”  The Commission noted that its determination of whether or not element 1f is met was based on the determination of what constitutes a “sleep mode” and what constitutes “off mode.”  The ALJ found that the accused devices do not meet this limitation.  Based on evidence and testimony redacted from the opinion, the Commission determined that the accused devices did meet the “sleep mode” limitation of element 1f, reversing the ALJ’s finding that the accused devices do not meet this element.

Element 1g of claim 1 is “implementing a power detection method comprising steps of detecting an amount of power of a source in a power system; switching the mobile phone system to off mode when the detected amount is less than a first threshold; and switching the PDA system to off mode when the detected amount is less than a second threshold.”  The Commission determined that the accused products do not meet the steps of “implementing a power detection method” because they do not include separately set thresholds, agreeing with the ALJ.  In addition to affirming the ALJ’s ID that Apple’s products do not infringe the claims of the ‘800 patent, the Commission also found that “the ALJ correctly determined that the HTC [domestic industry] products do not practice claim 1 of the ‘800 patent” in relation to element 1g.

The Commission declined to take a position on Apple’s continent petition for consideration of constructions of other claim elements in relation to invalidity, and whether HTC’s petition should be dismissed based on waiver (finding that the waiver argument is moot).  The Commission further specifically noted that it takes no position on whether or not HTC can prevail in light of its recent decision in Certain Electronic Devices with Image Processing Systems, Components Thereof, and Associated Software (Inv. No. 337-TA-724), and found no violation of Section 337 by Apple with respect to the ‘800 patent.