The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled that Apple's iPhones, iPods, and iPads do not violate four Samsung patents, dealing a blow to Samsung's legal offensive against Apple and its portable devices.
The ruling (PDF) is preliminary and needs to be approved by the ITC's full six-member commission.
"We remain confident that the full commission will ultimately reach a final determination that affirms our position that Apple must be held accountable for free-riding on our technological innovations," Samsung said in a statement. "We are proud of our long history of innovation in the mobile industry and will continue to defend our intellectual-property rights."
An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.
Samsung originally filed this complaint against Apple last August, accusing Apple of infringing on five of its patents with its mobile devices. The case was then carved down to four patents, after Samsung removed a 2005 patent for MP3 music track technology. The remaining four, which the ITC says Apple did not infringe, include:
7,706,348 -- A patent for CDMA wireless technology
7,486,644 -- A patent covering packet transmission on wireless devices
6,771,980 -- A patent covering dialing on smartphones
7,450,114 -- A patent for digital documents
This ITC case is 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.
Besides this ITC case, there's another between the two companies, filed by Apple against Samsung last July. In it, Apple seeks to have a number of Samsung's portable devices barred from being sold or imported into the U.S.
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 companies are due back in court next week for a hearing about Samsung's attempts to dissolve an injunction against its Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the U.S. In a filing last month, Samsung argued that the jury's finding that the tablet's hardware didn't violate Apple patents eliminated the basis for the ban.
Update, 12:35 p.m. PT: Adds comment from Samsung, along with more background. Another update at 1:21 p.m. PT adds a decline to comment from Apple.