Judge Posner Dumps Ridiculous Patent Fight Between Apple & Motorola As Contrary To The Public Interest

from the with-prejudice dept

Judge Richard Posner is, perhaps, the most influential judge not on the Supreme Court. Beyond writing a ton of books (and columns and articles and blog posts), his rulings often seem to carry extra weight. On intellectual property, he's been something of a mixed bag. He's written an entire book (which I consult frequently) on The Economic Structure of Intellectual Property Law. While extremely knowledgeable on the subject, he does (too frequently) come down on the side of believing that without IP law, you couldn't have a functioning market for products that are covered by intellectual property. Still, he doesn't just roll over on IP cases (or, really, any case -- though I'm still troubled by his belief that filming the police in public can be a bad thing).

While he normally is on the 7th Circuit Appeals Court, appeals court judges will sometimes "slum it" down at a district court. So Posner was handling a big patent fight: one filed by Apple against Motorola for patent infringement concerning (of course) smartphones, down in the Northern Illinois district court. As we've discussed at length in the past, there are a whole bunch of patent disputes concerning smartphones, with companies suing each other in the courts or seeking injunctions from the ITC. This case was one of the "main events," especially considering Google's purchase of Motorola.

So it's pretty interesting to see that Posner has told everyone he's dumping the case. The trial was supposed to start on Monday, but he released a statement saying that there's nothing worth reviewing at a trial, and that he's dismissing the case with prejudice (meaning it can't be refiled), and effectively saying (in much nicer language) that the whole thing is a joke. The note concerning this says he'll issue a full ruling within a week -- though, he says that "in the course of... preparation I may change my mind" on the reasoning for the dismissal. Still, he lays out the basics, which are that there's simply nothing worth discussing. As he puts it: "neither party can establish a right to relief." Apple has admitted that "it cannot prove damages for the alleged infringement" of two of the patents, that two other patents do "not create a genuine issue of material fact" that would allow a trial to move forward and, with the final patent, Apple's evidence of damages "fails to create a genuine issue of material fact."

This isn't a huge surprise, since Posner's statements in filings from a few weeks ago certainly suggested his annoyance that a lawsuit had been filed over these patents. As quoted by Jeff Roberts at GigaOm, Posner had hit back at claims from both sides with pretty strong language:
[re a slide-to-unlock patent] Apple’s .. argument is that “a tap is a zero-length swipe.” That’s silly. It’s like saying that a point is a zero-length line.

Motorola’s contention that the term has a “plain and ordinary meaning” is ridiculous; Motorola seems to have forgotten that this is a jury trial.
The statement from Posner also rejects the idea that, outside of the damages question, "injunctive relief" (blocking one another from offering the products) was reasonable, stating that it would "impose costs disproportionate to the harm" and "would be contrary to the public interest."

Roberts also notes that, in a bit of interesting timing, Posner had just a few days ago posted a blog post discussing the importance of capitalism, but noting that our version of capitalism is lacking in many ways -- with him specifically calling out the "dysfunctional patent system" as one of a litany of problems with the way we've embraced "capitalism."

Posner has certainly always appeared to recognize that intellectual property law could be abused, but this seems like a strong indication that he's realizing just how widely it is being abused under today's patent system.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Rob, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:35pm

    Geometry fail

    "Itís like saying that a point is a zero-length line"

    A point IS a zero-length line, just as a line is a zero width plane.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:36pm

    Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    remarks form the shills in 5....4...3...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    ... from the shills.. damn typist

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:38pm

    Re: Geometry fail

    If I remember from my geometry, a line is infinite lentgh, therefor a point, by definition cannot be a line. my recollection is that between to point is a segment, not a line. But I may be wrong...

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5.  
    identicon
    James Plotkin, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:40pm

    Well done Judge Posner. Although I have to say that if anyone was going to flip off the big patent giants, i would be the outspoken learned judge Posner.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:43pm

    Re: Re: Geometry fail

    No, a vector is infinite length

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    n/m

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:49pm

    [re a slide-to-unlock patent] Appleís .. argument is that ďa tap is a zero-length swipe.Ē Thatís silly. Itís like saying that a point is a zero-length line.


    Um, a point is a zero length line. Does this mean that since touch screens preceded apple ... apple's patent on swiping should be thrown out?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:51pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    Doesn't the vector start at a fixed point?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
    icon
    Andrew F (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 12:52pm

    Re: Geometry fail

    He's not disputing the mathematical definition but pointing out the silliness of relying on a mathematical definition in lieu of the "plain meaning" of a term.

    If you want to say point, then say point, not zero-length line. Likewise, if you mean tap, then say tap, not zero-length swipe.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11.  
    identicon
    Rob, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:04pm

    Re: Re: Geometry fail

    A line is defined by two points. In the degenerate case, the two points are on top of each other, zero distance apart - a point.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12.  
    identicon
    rubberpants, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:06pm

    The patent system is totally fine.

    /shill

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:07pm

    More math fail

    Mathematically, a line is defined by an equation of the form: y = mx + b, which is of infinite length. Geometrically, a line is defined as: "a geometrical object that is straight, infinitely long and infinitely thin." A "line segment" has finite length.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14.  
    identicon
    rubberpants, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:12pm

    Re:

    The question is: is that very minor syntactical distinction worth a million-dollar monopoly for one company? No reasonable person would think so.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:14pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    If we're picking geometry nits here...

    The term you are looking for is segment. A segment is defined by two points. DHLC is correct in saying that a *line* is infinite.

    In geometry, there are three linear-type two dimensional entities: A line, which does not start or end, and only has a slope. A vector that starts at a point, and does not end, and a segment, which starts at a point, ends at a point, and has a length.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:15pm

    and even though he is someone that deals with and has to sort out these ridiculous patent laws/claims, he and his like wont be asked for opinions on how they could be somewhat mended, leaving that task to the lawyers who will never agree on anything!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17.  
    icon
    DannyB (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:21pm

    Re: Re: Geometry fail

    Instead of "line" say "line segment".

    A point is a zero length line segment.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18.  
    identicon
    Me, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:27pm

    Frivolous disgrace

    The US patent system on anything software is one big joke and one big scam. It is the laughing stock of the whole world and a plain disgrace. Nowadays patent trolls are among the league of Apple and Oracle, with whole industries suing and counter-suing at the taxpayer and consumer expense.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  19.  
    icon
    egghead (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    Starting at a fixed point doesn't preclude a vector being infinite in length; yet it will always be infinitely shorter than a line.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
    identicon
    Me, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:43pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    Wrong, a line segment is a part of a line that is bounded by two distinct end points.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    No, it's definitely a case of remarks form shills.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  22.  
    icon
    The eejit (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Re:

    Correction: an IP lawyer's job is predicated on never agreeing on anything progressive with regards to that field of law.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 1:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    I confused your name Rob for Bob and then I thought "since when did Bob get so smart"

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 2:11pm

    Re:

    I hope someone sues arguing that a swipe is tap that has been dragged.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    icon
    DH's Love Child (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 2:58pm

    Re: Re: Re: Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    Touche!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    ChimpObama McBinLadenBurton, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:16pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    Douche!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  27.  
    identicon
    ChimpObama McBinLadenBurton, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:17pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Cue the "Legislating form the bench"

    ... Touche!.. damn typist

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  28.  
    icon
    TimothyAWiseman (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:30pm

    Re: Geometry fail

    No, a line extends infinitely in both directions. It is closer to say that a point is a zero length line segment, but even that doesn't quite work since line segment is normally formally defined as being bounded by two distinct points. (Definitions of line-segments that permit zero length lines would result in most theorems that deal with line segments to require a caveate that they are talking about a non-zero length line, which is just awkward).

    More than that, anyone who has not studied mathematics would probably intuitively agree with the judge. To move it entirely outside of math, the judge could have said "That is silly, that is like saying standing still is a zero-length walk."

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  29.  
    icon
    TimothyAWiseman (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:34pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    A vector always has a magnitude and direction. In short, it is not (always) infinite.

    I think you are thinking of a ray, which has one fixed point and is infinite in the other direction. Wikipedia has it at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ray_(geometry)#Ray

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  30.  
    icon
    TimothyAWiseman (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:39pm

    Re: More math fail

    If we want to get technical a line is a primitive or "undefined" term.

    It is algebraicly described in the form y = mx + b and in Euclidean geometry given two points there will be a single, unique line passing through those points. The axioms imply that the line must have infinite length and no width.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  31.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 3:44pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    Who cares, I have a patent on it and if you use it I will sue you.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  32.  
    identicon
    dr Evil, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 4:25pm

    another point to swipe at

    wait, is anyone thinking about (Steve Jobs') children?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  33.  
    icon
    Karl (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 5:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    No, a vector is infinite length

    No, a vector is an entity with both a magnitude and a direction. It can be visualized as a point in n-dimensional space (or, alternately, as an "arrow" with its head at that point, and the tail at the origin). The magnitude (or norm) is defined as the linear distance between that point and the origin.

    I just got done with both physics and linear algebra. So, sorry for the dorkiness.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  34.  
    icon
    Simple Mind (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 5:14pm

    Re: Re: Geometry fail

    I thought he was trying to say that if you have a patent on X (the line) you cannot say that it also covers Y (the point) because you can reduce X to Y in some way.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  35.  
    identicon
    6, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 5:17pm

    Mike you should note that the judge did not dump the lawsuit as being contrary to the public interest, he simply noted that an injunction be against the public interest. That is part of the 4 factor test for an injunction. It has nothing to do with whether or not the whole case is "in the public interest".

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    lucidrenegade (profile), Jun 8th, 2012 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Geometry fail

    I was thinking the same thing! :0)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 8th, 2012 @ 10:06pm

    Is Posner really saying that the patent system is dysfunctional, or is he saying that companies are pursuing patents in many instances for reasons that appear to be abusive, intended in some instances having nothing to do with preserving a patentee's rights for its current, prospective business goods and/or services? Abuse does not necessarily equate with dysfunction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    DigdaVig, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 5:34am

    lol

    youve got to be kidding me right?

    www.anon-planet.at.tc

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  39.  
    identicon
    Shawn T, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 11:08am

    Re:

    Sure, and if someone "asked" his honor to do that,
    I think he'd tell them to get lost, with prejudice.
    ;p

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 1:34pm

    Re:

    So you're arguing that he did not dump the lawsuit as being contrary to the public interest ... he dumped it because it was against the public interest?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 4:33pm

    Re: Re:

    No, 6 has neither stated nor suggested what you seem inclined to believe.

    The last paragraph on Page 1 and the first two paragraphs on Page 2 set forth Judge Posner's reasoning for dismissing the case. These paragraphs are associated with technical issues regarding expert testimony, summary judgement, and a preliminary injunction. The judge has found that based upon the record before him there are no disputed statement of fact, and, thusly, he is able to rule on the case based solely upon established precedent. That precedent compels him to dismiss the case since neither party is able to establish that it has a claim against the other as to which legal relief can be granted.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:30pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    You said (and you are 6) "he simply noted that an injunction be against the public interest. That is part of the 4 factor test for an injunction. It has nothing to do with whether or not the whole case is "in the public interest"."

    You are reasoning in circles here. You argued that an injunction is against the public interest ... not being against the public interest is one of the four requirements for an injunction, he prevented an injunction because it violated one of the four requirements, the injunction being against the public interest was one of the four requirements that weren't met. IOW: He prevented the injunction because it would be against the public interest. You are basically saying the same exact thing Mike said but you are using way way way more words ... and here I am trying to circle around your circular logic with more words than you to show that you make no sense. I dunno who's crazier, you for being retarded or me for trying to explain something to a retard.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 6:31pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    the injunction not being against the public interest was one of the four requirements that weren't met. *

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 9th, 2012 @ 7:48pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, not 6, but I do understand the legal point he was making. The granting of injunctions reside solely within the court's (i.e., judge's) discretion, and in cases involving patents they have become much less "automatic" since about 5 or so years ago when the Supreme Court issued its decision in MercExchange v. eBay.

    If a judge does elect to exercise his/her discretion and award injunctive relief, there are four general guidelines that are used in analyzing if such relief is appropriate. In somewhat simplistic terms these guidelines comprise: (1) that a patentee has suffered an irreparable injury; (2) that remedies available at law (i.e., money damages) are inadequate to compensate for that injury; (3) that considering the balance of hardships between the patentee and infringer, a remedy in equity is warranted; and (4) that the public interest would not be disserved by a permanent injunction.

    In his comment 6 was referring merely to (4) above in the context of the possible grant of an injunction. The lawsuit itself, however, was dismissed for an entirely different reason, namely, that neither party had presented proof sufficient to demonstrate that they were entitled to the court awarding them money damages. IOW, each of them failed in Judge Posner's opinion to prove their respective cases against the other.

    What will happen in the case hereafter depends, of course, on the judge's written opinion that he said he would provide in short order.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 1:13pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    OK, maybe I'm the retard here, I see what you're saying. The reason for throwing out the lawsuit is stated in the article and the title is a bit misleading here. My apologies.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Re:

    It is dysfunctional because the penalty structure is dysfunctional. Someone who infringes on a patent can be heavily fined but, most of the time, the worst that happens to someone who initiates a bogus patent lawsuit and attempts to abuse the system is that the lawsuit either gets thrown out and, if they're really unlucky, maybe they might pay an opponent filing or lawyer fees.

    People attempting to abuse the system is a sign of a dysfunctional system that doesn't sufficiently punish those who attempt to abuse the system.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re:

    (and if there were more stringent penalties against plaintiffs who attempt to abuse the IP system and they were imposed more often then far fewer people will attempt to abuse the system).

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re:

    opponent's *

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 10th, 2012 @ 5:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No one is retarded and no apologies are necessary.

    The basic rules of Civil Procedure are not ones that are well known outside of lawyer circles, and even within lawyer circles there are those who have apparently never spent any time looking them over.

    I know the rules, and even I had to read his order a couple of times to understand why he was even discussing injunctions when he had already decided that neither party had proven their case against the other.

    Anyway, his upcoming written opinion should provide the details concerning his order to the parties dismissing their cases with prejudice.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here
Get Techdirt’s Daily Email
Save me a cookie
  • Note: A CRLF will be replaced by a break tag (<br>), all other allowable HTML will remain intact
  • Allowed HTML Tags: <b> <i> <a> <em> <br> <strong> <blockquote> <hr> <tt>
Follow Techdirt
A word from our sponsors...
Essential Reading
Techdirt Reading List
Techdirt Insider Chat
A word from our sponsors...
Recent Stories
A word from our sponsors...

Close

Email This