U.S. trade judge recommends sales ban on some Apple iPhones

(Reuters) – A U.S. trade judge on Tuesday recommended Qualcomm Inc win a sales ban on some Apple Inc iPhone models containing chips made by Intel Corp in one of two patent disputes before the International Trade Commission.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Apple is seen at a store in Zurich, Switzerland January 3, 2019. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann -/File Photo

ITC administrative law judge MaryJoan McNamara said the basis for the ban was a finding that Apple infringed on a Qualcomm patent relating to smartphone technology.

The judge’s initial determination is not binding and will be reviewed by the agency.

The judge said Apple did not infringe two other Qualcomm patents at issue in the case.

“We appreciate Judge McNamara’s recognition of Apple’s infringement of our hardware patent and that she will be recommending an import ban and cease and desist order,” Qualcomm General Counsel Don Rosenberg said in a statement.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ITC is expected to issue a final decision later on Tuesday in a similar case brought by Qualcomm in which the chip maker is also seeking a U.S. ban on sales of some iPhones with Intel chips. That case is at a more advanced stage.

The two cases are substantially similar but are grounded on different Qualcomm patents. In both of them, Qualcomm is seeking an iPhone sales ban.

The two American companies are locked in a wide-ranging legal dispute in which Apple has accused Qualcomm of unfair patent licensing practices. Qualcomm has in turn accused Apple of patent infringement.

A trial is scheduled for April in a case brought by Apple alleging Qualcomm’s licensing practices violate U.S. competition law.

The International Trade Commission is a government agency empowered to hear disputes over patented technology.

While the ITC cannot award money damages like federal courts, it can block sales of imported products if it determines they infringe on U.S. patents. So an ITC import ban has the effect of halting U.S. sales of a product made overseas.

Apple makes iPhones outside the United States through deals with contract manufacturers and imports them into the U.S. market

In ITC cases, a judge makes an initial recommendation as McNamara did, which is then reviewed by the full agency.

Reporting by Jan Wolfe and Stephen Nellis; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

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