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Microsoft, ZTE prevail in patent case with InterDigital

InterDigital receives a blow from the US International Trade Commission with a ruling that says Nokia and ZTE did not infringe on patents.

The Nokia XL smartphone. CNET

The US International Trade Commission has concluded that Nokia and ZTE did not infringe on InterDigital's patents. The government agency announced Thursday that it was terminating its investigation with a "finding of no violation."

InterDigital, a wireless research and development company, filed a complaint with the ITC in 2013 claiming Nokia and ZTE engaged in unfair trade practices by selling certain 3G and 4G wireless devices that violate the seven patents. Without naming any specific products, the complaint points to mobile phones, USB sticks, mobile hot spots, laptops, and tablets.

In its complaint, InterDigital fought to have the allegedly infringing products barred from entry into the US and tried to institute a sales ban of any of the devices already in the country. InterDigital also filed complaints against Samsung and Huawei and filed a parallel complaint with US District Court.

In July, four of the patents were dropped from InterDigital's claim and only three remained. Now that the ITC has found no violations on those three patents (PDF), InterDigital has vowed to appeal.

"The Commission's decision is disappointing, running contrary to a number of judicial decisions involving, in some instances, the exact same patents as in this case," InterDigital President and CEO William J. Merritt said in a statement. "We look forward to our appeal to the Federal Circuit, which we believe will, again, find in InterDigital's favor."

This wasn't the first time InterDigital went after these smartphone makers. In 2011, InterDigital filed another ITC complaint against Nokia, Huawei, and ZTE alleging infringement against 3G patents. In the past, the company has reached patent agreements with both Samsung and Apple.

"Meanwhile, our license agreements with major market leaders in both terminal units and infrastructure equipment have provided ample validation of our technology contributions and portfolio of inventions related to wireless technologies," Merritt said. "As a result, we do not feel this decision will have any meaningful impact on our progress towards our licensing goals."

While InterDigital initially filed its complaint against Nokia, Microsoft took over responsibility when it bought Nokia for $7.2 billion in April.

CNET contacted Nokia and ZTE for comment. We'll update the story when we get more information.