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ITC judge says Samsung infringes key part of Apple patent

Shoppers look at Samsung smartphones in a shop in Seoul, April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won
Shoppers look at Samsung smartphones in a shop in Seoul, April 5, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-won

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Samsung Electronics Co Ltd infringed a key portion of an Apple Inc patent by including a text-selection feature in its smartphones and tablets, an International Trade Commission judge said in a preliminary decision.

South Korean-based Samsung did not infringe portions of a second Apple patent that allows a device to detect if a microphone or other device is plugged into its microphone jack, the judge said in a decision that was issued on March 26 but kept confidential until late Thursday to allow the companies to redact sensitive business information.

The full commission must now decide if they will uphold it or overturn the judge's decision. A final decision is expected in August.

If it is upheld, the ITC can order any infringing device to be barred from importation into the United States. Apple has alleged that Samsung's Galaxy, Transform and Nexus devices, among others, were among those made with the infringing technology.

Apple had filed a complaint in mid-2011, accusing Samsung of infringing its patents in making a wide range of smartphones and tablet.

ITC Judge Thomas Pender said in a preliminary decision in October that Samsung infringed four Apple patents but did not violate two others listed in the complaint. There had been seven listed initially, but one was dropped during litigation.

The full commission then said it wanted the agency's judge to take a second look at portions of two patents where he had found that Samsung infringed. That remanded decision, issued in late March, was unsealed on Thursday.

Samsung is the world's largest smartphone maker, while Apple is in second place, according to Gartner Inc, a technology research firm.

Apple is waging war on several fronts against Google Inc, whose Android software powers many Samsung devices. The legal battles between Apple and Samsung have taken place in some 10 countries as they vie for market share in the booming mobile industry.

Google's Android software, which Apple's late founder Steve Jobs denounced as a "stolen product," has become the world's No. 1 smartphone operating system. Apple's battle against Google's Android software has dragged in hardware vendors that use it, including Samsung and HTC.

Samsung is also a parts supplier to Apple, producing micro processors, flat screens and memory chips for the iPhone, iPad and iPod. Apple has reduced orders from Samsung for chips and screens.

The case at the International Trade Commission is No. 337-796.

(Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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