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11/6/2012
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Apple Vs. Motorola Suit Tossed By Judge

Motorola and Apple sued each other in Florida, Illinois and Wisconsin; Judge Crabb dismisses Wisconsin case. Next up, Washington State.

A U.S. District Court judge in Wisconsin has thrown out an Apple patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola following Apple statements on what sort of decision it was willing to accept from the judge.

The case is one of a pair that Motorola and Apple filed against each other in October 2010. On Oct. 6, 2010, Motorola charged Apple had violated 18 of its patents in a case filed in U.S. District Courts in Florida and Illinois.

Apple responded Oct. 30, 2010, with a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court's Western District of Wisconsin, charging that, by distributing Android software, Motorola had violated 12 of its patents, a number later increased to 24, according to Reuters. Twenty-one of the violations were for Droid software distribution. Others were for video streaming and Wi-Fi.

The Wisconsin appeared to be going Apple's way, with Judge Barbara B. Crabb willing to impose a settlement that would have required Motorola to pay a royalty for each of its Droid phones sold. Motorola is now a unit of Google, and Apple has claimed in several cases, including Apple vs. Samsung in San Jose, Calif., that Android software infringes its iOS device user interface and design patents.

[ Learn how Apple strong-arms its rivals. See Apple Beats Competition With Design And Design Patents. ]

Motorola had made statements previously in the Wisconsin case on what it considered a reasonable rate to pay to Apple for its patents, but it wanted to ensure that Apple would be bound by the court's ruling that set a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" FRAND rate. Apple claimed Motorola wanted 2.25% of the sale price, more than Apple was willing to pay.

Technologies covered by the Motorola patents have since been incorporated into mobile network standards, making the case one where Apple could assert it should be required to pay only a FRAND rate per sale. It's a concept in patent law, frequently upheld by the courts, that when technology becomes part of a standard, its owner must license it at reasonable rates to all comers. Otherwise, discretionary rates by the owner might put a primary competitor out of business.

Motorola sought to resolve the Wisconsin case as it was about to go to trial Monday with "a motion for guidance," asking the court to impose a rate on Apple for Motorola's patents. Apple balked and said it would only be willing to honor the rate if the court didn't exceed $1 per iPhone or iOS device.

Judge Crabb then questioned whether, if Apple was limiting what it would accept, the case should be heard in her court at all. Monday she dismissed it with prejudice, meaning it can't be refilled in her or any other district court without first getting a favorable ruling from the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Florian Mueller, a blogger following the trial and a consultant for Microsoft in its patent disputes with Motorola, was one of the first to report the outcome in his FOSS Patents blog.

"Things were actually going very well for Apple, with the court being originally quite inclined to consider Apple's request for a court order that would have brought about a license agreement for Apple on Motorola's wireless (cellular and Wi-Fi) standard-essential patents," Mueller commented in his Monday posting.

Crabb was a judge inclined to reach a settlement between the two parties, by court order if necessary, Mueller noted. Then she reacted to Apple's "1% statement" and dismissed the case, he said.

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