Judge Posner Dumps Ridiculous Patent Fight Between Apple & Motorola As Contrary To The Public Interest
from the with-prejudice dept
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.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."
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.
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.