An administrative law judge for the U.S. International Trade Commission has sided with Apple in its patent complaint against Samsung.
In an initial determination filed today (PDF), Judge Thomas Pender said that Samsung is, in fact violating one of Apple's iPhone design patents, as well as three software feature patents. However no violation was found with claims from two other Apple patents.
The ruling, which could lead to sales bans of those products in the U.S., is preliminary and needs to be approved by the ITC's full six-member commission.
In a statement, Samsung said the decision would lead to higher priced goods, and that it's "confident" about the ITC's final determination:
If left to stand, this initial determination could lead to fewer choices, less innovation, and potentially higher prices for the American consumer. We remain confident that the full commission will ultimately reach a final determination that affirms our position that patent law must not be manipulated to give one company a monopoly over rectangles with rounded corners, or technology that is being improved every day by Samsung and other companies. We will continue to take all appropriate measures to ensure the availability of our innovative products for American consumers.
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
Apple filed its complaint last July, accusing Samsung of infringing on five utility patents and two design patents on six smartphones and two variants of the Galaxy Tab. Apple later shaved a patent from the bunch, as well as particular claims from two others. Like Apple's federal suit, the hitlist of devices is primarily older phones and tablets -- not newer ones like the Galaxy S3 or Note (which are included as part of a separate complaint).
An initial decision on the matter was originally due last week, and was extended into the end of this week. The Commission's target date for a final determination is February 19, 2013.
The ruling comes a month after ITC Judge James Gildea said that Apple's iPhones, iPods, and iPads did not violate four Samsung patents as part of a complaint that was filed by Samsung last August. Like today's decision, that too was an initial determination, and must undergo a commission review.
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.
Both cases are part of a much wider spat between Apple and Samsung, which are involved in legal confrontations around the globe. Perhaps the largest has been the U.S. trial between the two in a San Jose, Calif., federal court, which wrapped up last month favoring Apple, but has yet to be entirely laid to rest.
Updated at 2:15 p.m. PT to include additional background, and again at 3 p.m. PT with comment from Samsung.