22
Jun
300px-CourtGavel_thumb

After an injunction hearing earlier this week, Judge Posner has issued his final decision on whether to throw out the Motorola v. Apple case. The result? You're (both) outta here.

Judge Posner dismissed both parties' cases with prejudice earlier this evening (meaning Apple and Moto cannot refile against one another on these issues in any other federal court). Apple will, of course, appeal.

Posner's feeling on Apple's insistent demand for an injunction against Motorola's smartphone products was summed up best by the following excerpt from the decision:

And while the patents themselves (or some of them at least) may well have considerable value, after the claims constructions by Judge Crabb and myself and after my grants of partial summary judgment only a handful of the original patent claims remain in the case; infringement of that handful may not be a source of significant injury past, present, or future. For a variety of reasons patents in the field of information technology often have little if any value except defensively. See Alan Devlin, “Systemic Bias in Patent Law,” 61 De-Paul L. Rev. 57, 77–80 (2011), and references cited there.

(emphasis ours)

He follows it up with a classic-Posner law and economics explanation of why patents on relatively minor software features such as the ones Apple is asserting shouldn't be grounds for injunctive relief:

A related reason for withholding injunctive relief in this case is that it would be likely to impose costs on the alleged infringer disproportionate both to the benefits to it of having infringed and to the harm to the victim of infringement, and would thus be a windfall to the patentee and a form of punitive rather than compensatory damages imposed on the infringer. Not only is there no evidence of gain to Motorola or loss to Apple even though if there were gain or loss Apple should have been able to quantify it, but in addition an injunction could force Motorola to remove lucrative products from the market for as long as it took to remove the infringing features—minor features in complex devices most features of which are not alleged to infringe—from its products, or to invent around the infringing features.

(emphasis ours)

As someone with an appreciation for Posner's often practically-minded adjudication of civil disputes, I'll admit, it's nice to see a judge (a very smart, well-respected one) say what we've all been thinking: this is a market share proxy war, and Apple's fighting it with software tweaks that have little or no value in the real world.

Will it stop Apple from filing a new suit against Motorola? Probably not. But when Judge Posner speaks, other judges take notice - and they read what he has to say. Let's hope the justices presiding over similar Apple patent suits (over many of the same patents) against HTC and Samsung do a little reading this weekend.

TheVerge

David Ruddock
David's phone is an HTC One. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, imparting a legal perspective on tech news, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • RedPandaAlex

    Wish this judge had been handling the cases for HTC's import bans too.

  • http://profiles.google.com/scottoldfield Scott Oldfield

    Dear Judge Posner: I love you...that is all.

  • Thronnos

    It's about time. I've got nothing but respect for that judge. Unbiased and we'll informed desicion.

  • Bariman43

    I'm hoping this judge will be able to completely crush Apple's superiority complex and let them know that competition is actually a thing that happens in this country, and they had better deal with it by making the best products they can instead of half-assing it every year and filing lawsuits. Was that a run-on sentence? I don't care.

  • Freak4Dell

    This Posner probably thinks he's cooler than Mike, and he definitely is, if I do say so myself.

  • Stephen

    Time to petition the Queen to give Judge Posner a knighthood, so say we all!

    • Franky

       I'd rather give him a Judge-Dredd-style lawgiver to enforce his ruling.

  • Jon Garrett

    +1 for Judge  Posner

  • AppleFUD

    It seems that Judge Posner is the only Judge of late that seems to remember what patents are all about.

    They are not something to be used to ban a competitors products. They are to be used "defensively" to ensure that the inventor gets *paid* for their efforts.

    That's why they are publicly available to everyone!

    A look back through history at major inventions by "the little guy" and we often see mega corporation take the idea and develop it into mass production but the inventor gets royalties from the mega corporation or rather licensing fees but were unable to stop the development.

    Seems apple does NOT like to pay licensing fees for FRAND patents and then does NOT want anyone to use their "minimal feature patents."

  • FrillArtist

    A judge that actually has common sense?!?!? Pinch me. I must be dreaming.

  • MicroNix

    To Apple:

    Don't go away mad, just go away

  • Asphyx

    What needs to happen here is that when a judge rules a particular patent has little or no value the patent itself should be revolked and the IP placed into the public domain.

    That will stop the courts from having to hear the same case 500 times on a Patent that if it really has no intrinsic value should not have been issued in the first place!

    and 99% of Apples lawsuits will be dismissed because all they are trying to do is patent a UI not any real technology advances.

    As far as I'm concerned Software should not be patented only copyrighted. UI is software not hardware. A notification bar is not a technology it is a software code.

    To say other wise is like ford trying to sue GM for infringing on thier patent because GM makes a vehicle with 4 wheels on it and they made a 4 wheeled vehicle first!

    Just bull!

    Take away the patents they claim to have that are deemed frivilous and watch the court docket clear out like rats off a sinking ship!

    • AppleFUD

      Actually Posner did NOT rule on the validity (or value) of the patents nor did he rule on whether or not any infringement had taken place.

      Neither party provided enough prof of (possible) damages to move the case forward and what they were asking for (injunctive relief) is unattainable even if the infringements (and damages) were proven.

      Nonetheless, I do like your idea.

      However, what Posner is pointing out is essentially what you are saying. Having a patent does not mean it is highly valuable therefore, the judge at hand must consider the patent's value as it pertains to the whole of the item it is used in — whether infringing or not. Therefore, if said patent's overall value to the whole is of little consequence then said patentee can't ask for anything more than a royalty and that royalty cannot be more than the cost to "invent-around" said patent — actually that pretty much applies to all patents, injunctive relief is only given in extreme cases where the patentee is damaged *beyond* what a royalty or licensing fee would suffice to make them "whole."

      Therefore, once a judge rules on the "value" of a patent other courts can look to the precedent furthermore, all companies infringing upon said patent would know its value and can pay the price or invent-around it thus, there ought not be a second court case brought concerning a patent that's been ruled to be valid and have a value. 

      The issue at hand with apple is, apple wants injunctive relief not *compensation* and is therefore engaging the courts and ITC in a manner to increase their market share via injunctive relief (banning competitors' products) and abuse the patent system at large. Posner points out that apple cannot do that without first proving damages beyond what would be compensated for via royalty/license fees. Blatantly put, none of these companies have any claim whatsoever for injunctive relief even if said patent(s) are infringed upon as the court will make them whole by forcing a royalty payment upon the infringer. Apple just doesn't like the idea that they MUST accept a royalty payment for their patents when said infringing damages do not warrant injunctive relief (it's rare that they do).

      • Asphyx

        I do understand the difference in what he ruled. All he really said is that Apple did not prove or show the value of the patent to the product and therefore threw out the case since there was no evidence to rule on what they should get. They were not asking for money just trying to stop a product that used what they deem is thier technology. He said thats not how it works, state your value and we will judge if you deserve that.

        My position is that these types of patents should not be approved in the first place. A feature of a piece of software is not a technology and not patentable any more than use of a metaphor in a book is a patentable feature denied other authors.
        Another author may not be allowed to use the same metaphor word for word (which is where copyright comes in) but he can still make a metaphor in his works.
        The patent system and registry needs to stop issuing patents for things best served via copyright. IMO as long as your code does not copy the code they used you have already worked around the issue.

        Anything software related that can be done 50 different ways is not a patentable property. Software is best protected by copyright.

        Until the patent office starts doing thier homework better and stop rubber stamping patents that shouldn't be patented this lawsuit crap is going to go on forever!

        • AppleFUD

          No doubt, software should only get copyright.

          The patent office however will not stop issuing lame patents because it makes money for the government — guess the dumb sh!ts don't look at how much it cost the governments via the courts and all this BS.

  • Asphyx

    You know I bet you anything if Apple was forced to stop suing people all the lawyers hired to deal with just thier patent cases alone would make Unemployment jump up to about 20%!

  • JoeMama

    The Judge has spoken!

  • techfanPhD

    You guys do know that Motorola sued Apple in this case, right?  Apple countered with their own lawsuit.

    • Alan

      So, they both got a slap across the wrists and told to GTFO, your point is?

  • Danno194288

    You gotta love Judge Poster's clear language. He's the Judge Judy of the Federal Courts of Appeal.

  • Danno194288

    oops: You gotta love Judge Posner's clear language. He's the Judge Judy of the Federal Courts of Appeal.

  • k3rc

    Sometimes the legal system works... This is one of those times.