ITC to probe Apple patent claims against Motorola

The U.S. International Trade Commission is opening an investigation into claims that Motorola's Droid, Droid 2, and other smartphones are infringing on several Apple patents.

The U.S. International Trade Commission is officially stepping in to investigate Apple's claim of patent infringement against Motorola.

The ITC announced yesterday that its probe will examine a complaint that Apple filed with it on October 29 against Motorola. The charges are detailed in two lawsuits by Apple against Motorola in which Apple alleges that the sale of Motorola's Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, and other smartphones and related software violate several Apple patents.

In one of the suits against Motorola, Apple cites patent No. 7,479,949, which covers methods by which touch screens detect contact with fingers. The two other patents included in this suit are Nos. 6,493,002 and 5,838,315, both of which refer to elements of the graphical user interface. The other suit refers to patent Nos. 7,812,828, 7,663,607, and 5,379,430, which also focus on technologies for the touch screen and GUI.

In its complaint with the ITC, Apple is specifically charging that Motorola has violated Section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, which covers patent violations of products imported into the U.S. Apple is asking the ITC to issue an exclusion order and a cease and desist order, which would stop the import of the devices in question.

Motorola initially sued Apple in early October, claiming infringement over 18 different patents related to wireless communications.

The patent courts have been busy this year with a slew of lawsuits flying back and forth between some of the major tech players. Earlier this year, HTC and Apple launched patent suits against each other. In September, Apple filed a suit against Nokia in the U.K. after Nokia launched its own suit against Apple in 2009. And Microsoft recently filed two patent-related suits against Motorola, while Motorola just opened its own complaint with the ITC against Microsoft.