An administrative law judge for the U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Motorola Mobility Holdings, Inc. did not infringe three patents of Apple, Inc. in the production of several of its smartphones, according to a report in Law360.

Apple had filed the challenge with the International Trade Commission in October of 2010 against a number of Motorola’s smartphones, including the Droid, Backflip, and Cliq.  It claimed that the importation and sale of the phones with their underlying software would violate Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930---and sought an exclusion order preventing the importation of the phones.

The decision by the administrative law judge is subject to approval by the full six (6) member commission of the ITC.  The ITC action is just one part of the overall patent struggles between Apple and Motorola---and Apple and other companies.   Apple and Motorola are involved with the ITC complaint as well as actions in federal court and international arenas.  The U.S. International Trade Commission---a quasi-judicial federal agency---is located in Washington and is composed of six commissioners.  Its mission includes the fair administration of U.S. trade laws, and it retains the authority to ban the importation of goods manufactured outside the United States if the products violate intellectual property and other laws.  The ITC can be utilized strategically in intellectual property fights, where civil cases are filed but, in linked fashion, a complaint is also filed with the ITC seeking an embargo on the import of the product.  The threat of an embargo is considered by some to be an inducement to evaluate settlement prospects.