Both Apple and Motorola were recently back in court arguing before the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit as to whether the two company’s patent dispute should be reopened again for retrial. As reported by Reuters, Wednesday’s court action stems from the two firms’ 2010 decision to take each other to court, each alleging patent infringement on part of the other. The suits were eventually dismissed by US District Judge Richard Posner, who found that neither party had the evidence necessary to prove its case.
Apple continued to maintain that Motorola’s devices as Apple charges with many Android-powered devices, copied a number of Apple’s patented features from its iOS platform. Motorola countered by claiming that Apple’s iPhone infringed a standards-essential patent, a type of patent deemed necessary to the regular function of a piece of technology. It’s Motorola that has been pushing for the case to be reopened in the time since. The company contends that Apple has been an unwilling licensee or has refused to negotiate seriously on licensing fees, for the standards-essential patent that Motorola holds. Apple in turn has denied the accusations, claiming instead that Motorola is asking Apple to pay 12 times its previous rate to license the technology.
The three-judge panel hearing on the case reportedly peppered attorneys for both sides with questions on the degree of cooperation between the two parties in settling their licensing agreement. The two sides also debated the use of expert witnesses in any possible new trial. In the last trial, Judge Posner dismissed expert witnesses for both Apple and Motorola. For Motorola, a new trial could be the company’s best shot at regaining footing in the worldwide patent battles among tech giants. The company recently suffered a sizable setback in its patent litigation efforts with a federal judge ruling it must pay Microsoft $14.5 million in damages.
In that defeat, as in the current stalemate with Apple, Motorola was arguing for higher licensing fees over a standards-essential patent. The court ended up finding that Motorola had not been fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) when it came to licensing negotiations with Microsoft. The FRAND standard has become an essential tool in preventing anti-competitive actions by SEP holders in a number of industries, with the tech industry being no different. The result ended up being a big loss for Motorola, especially in terms of perception. Many observers noted at the time that the verdict made Motorola “a convicted patent troll” and spokespersons for Microsoft largely concurred in their remarks following the trial. According to one of the Microsoft spokespersons:
This is a landmark win for all who want products that are more affordable and work well together. The jury's verdict is the latest in a growing list of decisions by regulators and courts telling Google to stop abusing patents.