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Judge grills lawyers in Motorola-Apple fight

Judge Richard Posner /Sun-Times Medifile photo

Judge Richard Posner /Sun-Times Media file photo

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:18AM



U.S. Judge Richard Posner grilled lawyers for Motorola and Apple at a hearing Wednesday that could determine how easily such technology heavyweights can claim patent rights.

Apple is requesting an injunction against Motorola for alleged patent violations.

Posner said any injunction he might declare for Apple would have “catastrophic effects” on Motorola, and he questioned whether he could issue an injunction, as Apple has requested, in the case of what’s known as a “standards-essential patent.”

In fact, Apple CEO Tim Cook argued at a technology conference in April that the method for enforcing standards-essential patents is broken and that companies shouldn’t be able to get injunctions on them but should instead get strong licensing agreements.

But Apple attorney Matthew Powers said Apple isn’t asking that Motorola stop selling any of its phones — only that Motorola replace in its phones certain patented technology. That still wouldn’t stop Apple from suing Motorola again, claiming that any alternative “work around” technology that Motorola develops violates one of its patents.

Posner indicated he might impose a lump-sum judgment or a compulsory royalty payment on Motorola, but he noted the futility of just about any ruling since the patent disputes seem to go on and on.

“That’s all we need, new actions, new lawsuits, as if there is not enough litigation worldwide between Apple and Android devices,” Posner said.

Motorola attorney Steve Swedlow argued that Apple has failed to show its patented technology was a distinguishing factor in how the smartphones work.

For the past two years, Apple has sued rivals who use Google’s Android operating system in a bid to slow or stop the competition. Motorola sued first in the Chicago case in what experts say was a preemptive move, but Posner’s earlier rulings ended many of Motorola’s patent claims against Apple.

Posner will rule on the issue at an undetermined date. He had earlier canceled the hearing, saying an injunction would be “contrary to the public interest,” and then changed his mind.



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