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Court dismisses Apple smartphone patent claims against Motorola

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.

Judge Poser dismisses Apple-Motorola complaint

16 Responses to “Court dismisses Apple smartphone patent claims against Motorola”

  1. AppleFUD

    Seems like there are a lot of butt hurt apple fans commenting here that Posner is incorrect in his ruling. . . bla. . . bla

    Clearly you all have NOT read the decision in full.

    Judge Posner is NOT saying anyone can just “steal” another company’s IP. He is very clear about his decision and it rests upon the fact that Apple could *NOT* provide any evidence whatsoever of “actual damages” even if they did prove motorola has committed the *alleged* infringement. Therefore, there is NO point in moving the case forward as apple has completely failed to prove any damages whatsoever, thus even if apple won the case it would be awarded only one dollar = pointless case and a waste of the court’s time and tax payer’s money — DO NOT forget that all companies in the US exist for “the good of the people”.

    Furthermore, Posner knows full well what the patent system is for and it is NOT to be used as an “offensive weapon” to ban competitors products. It is a tool to protect the inventor and ensure that they are compensated — therefore he pushed apple on why they would NOT accept royalty payments IF the *alleged* infringement occurred.

    And that is the rub, patents are there for compensation purposes NOT anti-competitive purposes and Posner knows this full well and knows apple is using patents that have *no real value* for anti-competitive means.

    Judge Posner is a highly respected Federal Judge who is rarely over-turned and his decision in this case is very valid and sound — worthless patents are just that, worthless.

    • Matt Liotta

      Ah, but these are not worthless patents. Apple has so dominated the smartphone market that even its infringing competitors cannot compete. Now if Apple’s competitors come up with something more innovative that gains marketshare against them and can be shown to have derived from Apple’s patents then Apple would be damaged.

      Remember, these claims may be dismissed with prejudice, but subsequent claims of infringement from future devices are fair game. It is now known that the infringement is real, so the competitors have to know that any future device that actually succeeds in the market will fail in court.

      • AppleFUD

        You clearly HAVE NOT read the judgement.

        Go read it and try again. You have failed to understand most of what Judge Posner’s decision is based on — actual “damages.” HINT: there are NONE (or at the most very little in the way of cash compensation) in apple’s case even if said infringement(s) are proven and injunctions are not to be used. . . . enjoy the read.

      • AppleFUD

        BTW. . .

        Your first sentence kills anything you say from there on as it shows you are a blinded apple fanb. . . way to stay open minded! Clearly the “apple cult” is till alive and well.

    • AppleFUD

      Well, if you read Judge Posner’s decision you will know why apple is taking Android OEM’s to court — they want the courts to help apple protect and/or gain market share. In other words, apple has failed to gain market share via competition and now want the courts to help them out.

      Seriously, read the decision. . . Posner points it out clear as day.

  2. eldernorm

    Sorry but I say its an idiot judge that is 20 years out of date. Copying the look and feel, the concept of gestures etc is the new world. Samsung makes a copy so close, its own lawyer cannot tell the difference…. Yet courts understand Styroform cups spending money making everyone understand that styrofoam is their brand and not expanded polystyrene.

    So judges understand crappy advertising and stealing that, but technology, function, style….. well, that is just to high a level for them to understand.

    Sad, just sad. Now we know how Proview in China got its start. They used a US judge as its guide. Sell a trademark, then sue cause of some stupid statement that the wrong guy sold it and did not really mean it… :-(

  3. sir1honda

    On the count of 1,2,3 …
    iFanboys will be defending AGAIN apple…


    They love to buy, steal and copied OTHERS INVENTION…

    Apple is great in MARKETING & DESIGNING their products…

    Most patents they have had was bought from other real thinker and they just tweak A BIT to make it feel its theirs…

    iStupid, iMorons, iZombie – PLEASE WAKE UP…

    • eldernorm

      I think you mom is calling you. Its time to clean up the puppy poop.

      Just who do you think invented something?? Maybe a cave man invented the wheel and everyone else just stole it…. You know, radial steel belts on a multi rubber layer tread and base combination mounted on a alloy rim for 180 mph operation…. Yep. stole from a cave man.

      I am sure that the fact that Apple paid for the mouse and GUI interface does not count… Anti-Apple is more fun…. Enjoy your Surface..

      • John B.


        The problem that haunts Apple, is that they are so litigious. They complain about FRAND and what is expected yet, they won’t equally contribute on that playing field. Isn’t FRAND to help cross license standard technology? Apple’s DNA does not recognize licensing their products. They are very proprietary in their ecosystem.

        I argue that Apple is abusing the patent system for personal gain by trying to quell all competition. The question isn’t whether Apple’s patents are valid, it’s whether they are “overgeneralized” in an area that can’t sustain so much control from one company. Apple needs to slim down on what they feel is more beneficial to themselves and pool the rest for standard use. That is what FRAND is trying to accomplish and Apple refuses to recognize this.

        It will not surprise me if Apple is seriously brought to trial for Anti-competitive measures. The court system is being over burdened with these stupid litigations. We as consumers end up paying for all this and Apple consumers have the most at stake.

        John B.

      • john, you fail to capture what frand patents really cover and are only supposed to cover. frand is for essential standard tech only, not design or ui elements. 3g, sim cards, etc. are covered under frand because they are required to use a mobile phone with carriers. the iphones design, iOS ui, even swiping and finger gestures are not frand coverable and are patentable.

        because the iphone and ios have been so successful, every company is trying to emulate that success and copy the iphone in the hopes that the average customer wont notice a difference in the two. by copying apples designs and ui, they are guilty of copyright infringement. thats not to say apple is squeaky clean, one look at notifications in iOS5 and its almost an exact copy of droid os’.

        that said, this judge is just a cranky old man that doesnt understand the situation. just because apple is more successful and makes more money than motorola, doesnt negate the fact that motorola stole copyrightable design and ui elements. they should be held accountable, just as apple should be for notifications.

  4. PXLated

    The thing that bothers me about this ruling is it seems that anyone can just go and infringe your patents as long as they don’t create a successful business/product that takes money out of your pocket. Shouldn’t it be that they just need to quit infringing?

    • eldernorm

      BINGO. The judge seems to say that Motorola is infringing but that stopping them is too much. They should just pay for the theft. But that is not how it works. FRAND patents came with a legal requirement to lease… Original patents do not require that. but that is just a minor technical issue and seems to slip by the judge. sad