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.
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.
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.