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6/15/2012
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Apple, Motorola Patent Spat Revived

Judge grants June 20 hearing that will give both sides a chance to argue why the other's mobile products should be barred from sale.

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A judge who effectively tossed patent claims and counterclaims between Apple and Google's Motorola unit last week has reversed himself, granting Apple's request for a new hearing on possible injunctions that would block sales of its rival's mobile products.

Judge Richard Posner's ruling, in the U.S. District Court for Northern Illinois, also opens the door for Motorola to restate its case for similar injunctions against Apple.

"Each party may argue that it would be entitled to injunctive relief as to its patent or patents were the other party found to have infringed," Posner wrote in his ruling, published Thursday. He also said both Apple and Motorola also should be prepared to argue the case for royalties, instead of injunctions, at a hearing set for next Wednesday.

[ Keep up with the year's biggest tech kerfuffle so far. Read Google Wins Another Round In Oracle Lawsuit. ]

"They should indicate any evidence in the existing record … bearing on the question of injunctive or other equitable relief," Posner wrote. In declining the parties' request for injunctive hearings last week, Posner warned that he might change his mind in the course of compiling his written opinion. He apparently did just that.

Apple and Motorola have sued and countersued each other in a number of jurisdictions in the U.S. and Europe. The dispute centers on patents related to mobile devices such as the iPhone and Motorola's Droid.

The actions have drawn criticism from some observers, who note that a number of the patents in question govern implementation of commonsense features--such as a notification window that is not obscured by other applications.

Motorola, in particular, has come under criticism from some major industry players, including HP, Nokia, and Verizon, for pursuing claims related to technologies that it had previously committed to making available under so-called FRAND--fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory--terms.

Motorola also has traded patent suits with Microsoft. Earlier this week, several tech companies, including Apple, filed briefs with the U.S. International Trade Commission, asking the tribunal to reject Motorola's call for a ban on the importation of the Xbox, which is manufactured overseas, into the U.S.

Motorola, acquired by Google earlier this year for $12.5 billion, filed a complaint with the ITC claiming that the Xbox steps on four of its patents related to video compression. In May, U.S. ITC judge David Shaw said he favored Motorola's request for a ban, prompting the outcry from the larger tech industry. The full commission is set to rule on Shaw's findings on June 25.

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