Apple, Motorola Patent-Infringement Case Dismissed

In his decision, the judge repeatedly criticizes Apple for using the legal process as a way of attempting "significant harassment of its bitter rival," rather than seeking any financial damages for alleged patent infringements.

The 20-month-old legal fight between Apple and Motorola over alleged patent-infringement claims is now over after the trial judge dismissed the case after lashing some of Apple's key legal arguments in his 38-page court decision.

In his written opinion in the case, which was released June 23, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Posner criticized the approach that Apple took in bringing the matter to court. The two companies have been fighting in court over the design of their competing mobile devices.

Instead of seeking damages for the alleged infringements, Apple sought an injunction to protect it in the future from what the company claimed was irreparable damage from continued infringements of its patents by Motorola, the judge wrote.

"By failing to present a minimally adequate damages case, Apple has disabled itself from arguing that damages would not provide a complete remedy €¦ [Apple] harps on the loss of consumer goodwill and market share, as a ground for an injunction, but not only has no real evidence of such a loss, but given the nature of the patent claims, it is not a loss that an injunction would avert,€ Posner wrote.

Posner added that "Apple's case for injunctive relief flunks the irreparable injury, balance of hardships, and public interest standards" that were set in the 2006 eBay vs. MercExchange case, which was heard by the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Apple is complaining that Motorola's phones as a whole ripped off the iPhone as a whole," the judge wrote in his decision. "But Motorola's desire to sell products that compete with the iPhone is a separate harm€”and a perfectly legal one€”from any harm caused by patent infringement."

The main problem with Apple's arguments, the judge wrote, is that the company couldn't provide any reasonable damage figure for the alleged infringements.

One alleged infringement noted in Apple's lawsuit, the judge explained, is that customers who use a Motorola smartphone with a Kindle app preinstalled "turn pages by tapping on the screen rather than by swiping a finger across it." Apple alleged that this infringed on its patents.

But that, Posner wrote, is not significant enough to warrant any court action. "The notion that these minor-seeming infringements have cost Apple market share and consumer goodwill is implausible, has virtually no support in the record, and so fails to indicate that the benefits to Apple would exceed the costs to Motorola."

Instead, Posner called Apple's requested injunction an attempt to cause "significant harassment of its bitter rival €¦ [which] €¦ would in principle render no benefit to Apple besides harming its competitor by forcing it to waste time and money finding a new way of performing the functions now performed in an allegedly infringing manner. €¦"

The judge dismissed the lawsuit "with prejudice," which means it cannot be refiled, according to the decision. The parties can appeal his decision, but can't file a new case with the same allegations.

In a statement, a Motorola spokesman said the company is "pleased that Judge Posner formally dismissed the case against Motorola Mobility. Apple€™s litigation campaign began with their attempt to assert 15 patents against us. As it relates to Apple€™s violation of our patents, we will continue our efforts to defend our own innovation."

Apple has not replied to a request for comment on the decision.

Posner previously had ordered a new hearing on the case after he tentatively dismissed the ongoing patent-infringement case early in June.

The case began in November 2010 when Motorola sued Apple, alleging that Apple had infringed on 18 patents for technology related to Motorola technology for €œearly-state innovations,€ which Apple uses in several of its products and services, such as MobileMe and the App Store.

Those patents €œadditionally relate wireless communication technologies, such as for WiFi and 3G connectivity, antenna design and smartphone technologies for wireless email, proximity sensing, software application management, location-based services and multidevice synchronization,€ according to the lawsuit.

Apple sued Motorola one week later, alleging infringements on patents for multitouch and other touch-screen-related technologies the rival phone maker employs in its popular Android smartphone lineup.

Interestingly, the decision comes only a month after Apple arch-rival Google acquired Motorola Mobility in a $12.5 billion deal in May. Emotions have been running high between the two companies recently on several fronts.

Last month, Apple announced that it will drop the highly popular Google Maps app from its iPhones and iOS operating system and replace it with Apple's own mapping services.

The Apple-Google battles follow Google's development and the widespread popularity of its Android mobile phone operating system, which is in direct competition with Apple's iOS and products.

Earlier this year, Motorola celebrated an initial triumph over Apple, after a U.S. International Trade Commission administrative law judge issued an initial determination finding that Motorola Mobility has not violated any of the three patents listed in an October 2010 lawsuit Apple filed against the Droid maker.

Motorola had also filed a second complaint against Apple with the ITC, accusing Apple of infringing on Motorola patents in technology used in the Apple iPhone, iPad, iTouch and certain Mac computers.