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.

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Companies: apple, motorola

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

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49 Comments
Karl (profile) says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

TimothyAWiseman (profile) says:

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.”

Anonymous Coward says:

[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.

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?

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

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