In the ongoing patent battles that are never-ending, Motorola Mobility and more importantly its parent company Google were dealt a final loss by the ITC to a drawn-out case that dates back to 2010. Initially, Motorola had argued to the International Trade Commission that Apple had infringed on 18 of its patents and sought a ban on all iPhone imports. Note that because of the age of the case, this was would have only covered the iPhone 4.
Previously siding with Apple on the other patents, the ITC upheld an earlier ruling in December by presiding administrative law judge Thomas Pender that Apple had not violated the final patent of the case, Motorola’s proximity sensor patent 6,246,862. Not only that, the ITC agreed with Pender who stated that the patent was invalid altogether, but for different reasons. Pender said, “it is invalid because it isn’t different enough from earlier inventions” whereas the ITC said, “the concept was too obvious to merit patent protection”.
The proximity sensor patent in question would dim and disable a touchscreen’s display and functionality during a call so one wouldn’t “ear dial” and hit a bunch of buttons during a call. I think of this as a standard feature on all touchscreen-enabled phones, but in 1999 someone at Motorola thought of a proximity sensor first, pre-dating the iPhone by eight years. It’s crazy how these things work out sometimes considering Apple was granted a patent on something inane as “a rectangle with round corners” and a working piece of hardware like a proximity sensor was deemed not quite unique enough.