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Apple dealt another blow in ITC spat with Motorola

In a new ruling today, the U.S. International Trade Commission said Apple's violating one of Motorola's patents in its iPhones and iPads.

The U.S. International Trade Commission today ruled that Apple's iPhones and tablets violate one of Motorola Mobility's patents relating to Android devices, dealing another blow to Apple in the spat between the two companies.

In an initial determination (PDF) issued by ITC Judge Thomas Pender this morning, the ITC said Apple was violating one of Motorola Mobility's patents covering 3G wireless technology. In its original complaint, Motorola said Apple was infringing on the patent, along with four others, with its mobile devices, including the iPhone and iPad.

The ruling is preliminary and needs to be approved by the ITC's full six-member commission. It follows a loss for Apple against Motorola Mobility in early January, when the quasi-judicial group said that Motorola's Droid smartphones were not, in fact, violating three of Apple's patents. Apple filed that complaint against Motorola in October 2010, alongside two lawsuits.

"We are pleased that the ALJ's initial determination finds Apple to be in violation of Motorola Mobility's intellectual property, and look forward to the full commission's ruling in August," Motorola said in an e-mailed statement.

In a statement, Apple said it planned to appeal the decision.

"We're glad the court ruled in our favor on three of four patents patents being considered," the company said in a statement. "The fourth covers industry-standard technology which Motorola has refused to license to Apple on reasonable terms. A court in Germany has already ruled that Apple did not infringe on this patent, so we believe we will have a very strong case on appeal."

Last month, Apple asked a California court to prohibit Motorola from using that patent as ammunition in that separate German suit, since the patent in question was a standards-essential patent for GPRS. Apple chided Motorola for making the pledge to offer it under "Frand," or "fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory terms." (Read our primer on that here.)

Technology companies in recent years have increasingly turned to the ITC to settle their disputes. Companies can pursue an ITC case in parallel with civil lawsuits, and the threat of an embargo on products typically forces companies to settle more quickly.

Updated at 11:52 a.m. PT with an updated statement from Apple.