An outspoken Chicago judge has dismissed Apple’s patent claims against Motorola “with prejudice,” meaning they can’t be argued again before that court. Apple can appeal the case to a higher court, but the decision is a blow to its hopes of arguing that Motorola–now owned by Google–infringed on patents held by Apple for key smartphone technologies with its embrace of Google’s Android software.
Judge Richard Posner had already signaled his distaste for the Apple-Motorola case, viewed as one of the key disputes in the late Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ war against Android, Google’s smartphone operating system. Earlier in June he opined that the case was “silly,” in that it would impose more costs on the public than any perceived infringement on Motorola’s part would have caused. He agreed to allow Apple to argue its case one last time, but it doesn’t seem that he was swayed by those last-minute arguments.
Basically, Posner ruled that Apple couldn’t prove that the company had been harmed by anything Motorola had done. As a common sense argument, this holds water: Apple is currently the most valuable company in the world thanks to the runaway success of the iPhone and the iPad, while Motorola is a barely profitable smartphone company that was quite grateful to be rescued from dire straits by Google’s desire for Android patent protection.
Going further, however, Posner ruled that neither company was entitled to injunctive relief against the other: something that is the crux of every patent case.
A key passage:
In fact neither party is entitled to an injunction. Neither hasshown that damages would not be an adequate remedy. True,neither has presented sufficient evidence of damages to with-stand summary judgment—but that is not because damages areimpossible to calculate with reasonable certainty and are there-fore an inadequate remedy; it’s because the parties have failedto present enough evidence to create a triable issue. They had an adequate legal remedy but failed to make a prima facie case ofhow much money, by way of such remedy, they are entitled to. That was a simple failure of proof.
Posner appeared to draw on the Supreme Court’s ruling in the eBay vs. MercExchange dispute in making his decision to throw out the case, which can be appealed. The short version: seeking an injunction against a product you believe infringes your patents deserves a much higher burden of proof that presented in this case.
A compulsory license with ongoing royalty is likely to be asuperior remedy in a case like this because of the frequent dis-proportion between harm to the patentee from infringementand harm to the infringer and to the public from an injunction, a factor emphasized in Justice Kennedy’s concurring opinion in eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, L.L.C. in which he pointed out that “when the patented invention is but a small component of the product the companies seek to produce and the threat of an injunction is employed simply for undueleverage in negotiations, legal damages may well be sufficient to compensate for the infringement and an injunction may not serve the public interest.” He could have been describing this case. Three Justices joined his opinion, and no Justice expressed disagreement with it
The court’s ruling is embedded below.