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Apple presses patent fight

Appeals ruling that Motorola didn’t steal idea

– Apple has asked a U.S. appeals court to reinstate patent-infringement claims it filed against Google’s Motorola Mobility unit over touch-screen technology used in mobile phones.

“This is Apple’s first touch-screen patent,” Apple lawyer Joshua Rosenkranz of Orrick Herrington in New York told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington last week. The patent was for “a key invention, and it drove the iPhone phenomenon and later the iPad. It claims something that no one had ever done.”

Apple is appealing a U.S. International Trade Commission decision over transparent screens that can sense multiple touches in different locations, enabling users to operate a mobile phone by touching or swiping its screen.

Motorola Mobility persuaded the agency to rule that one of the patents was invalid and the other wasn’t infringed.

Commission lawyer Megan Valentine defended the agency’s decision, saying the Apple multitouch invention was very similar to earlier technology, including a patent issued in 2008 for a Sony innovation called SmartSkin.

“The algorithms are nearly identical in the two patents,” she told the panel. She also defended the commission’s finding that the commercial success of the iPhone wasn’t proof of the uniqueness of the patented invention.

In its filings with the court, Apple said figuring out how a device with a transparent screen could accurately detect multiple touches was a “head-scratcher.” Apple said Motorola Mobility tried and failed to develop its own useful touchscreen.

When the iPhone went on sale, reviewers cited the “magic touch screen” of the device, and Time magazine singled out the touchscreen when it named the iPhone its “Invention of the Year,” Rosenkranz said.

“The moment Apple unveiled its invention, we all know what happened,” Rosenkranz told the court. Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple has claimed that other handset makers copied the iPhone and has filed patent-infringement lawsuits around the world.

Motorola Mobility, in its filing, called Apple’s description of its inventive process as “equal parts fiction, hyperbole and litigation-inspired hindsight.”

“Apple is asking this court to believe that the success and popularity of its iPhone and iPad devices must mean Apple actually invented all of their individual components,” Motorola Mobility said.

“The major hardware components for the iPhone and iPad all existed prior to Apple’s entry into the mobile device market, and the facts show that Apple borrowed copiously from the work of others.”

The ITC in Washington has the power to block imports of products that violate U.S. patents. Since most smartphones are made in Asia, the trade agency has become a central front as handset manufacturers use patent litigation as part of an overall effort to increase their own market share.