The U.S. International Trade Commission has agreed to investigate Apple in light of Nokia's complaint that the computer maker's iPhones, iPods, and Macs infringe on the Finnish phone maker's patents.
In a brief statement issued Monday, the USITC said the case would be assigned to one of the agency's six administrative law judges, who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing. The judge will make an initial ruling, which is subject to review by the full commission.
The USITC said it would set a target date for completing the investigation within 45 days. USITC rulings are effective when issued and become final in 60 days, unless disapproved by the U.S. Trade Representative. The latter government agency is responsible for developing and recommending U.S. trade policy to the president.
The USITC is an independent, quasi-judicial federal agency that determines the impact of imports on U.S. industries and directs actions against certain unfair trade practices, such as patent, trademark,and copyright infringement.
Nokia, which filed its complaint in December, accuses Apple of using patented technology to create key product features in the area of user interface, as well as camera, antenna, and power management. The complaint lists seven Nokia patents allegedly infringed by Apple in "virtually all of its mobile phones, portable music players, and computers."
The complaint is part of an ongoing legal battle between the two companies. The legal tit for tat started last October when Nokia filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Delaware, claiming Apple infringed on 10 of its patents. Apple countersued in December in the same Delaware court, claiming Nokia infringed on 13 of its patents.