Apple scores courtroom wins in Motorola FRAND case

The iPhone maker claims that Google-owned handset maker is unfairly seeking excessive royalty payments for patents covering video streaming and Wi-Fi technology.

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While most of the patent litigation attention is currently focused on Apple's ongoing lawsuit against Samsung, the iPhone maker has scored some pretrial summary judgments in a Wisconsin case against Motorola Mobility over fair patent licensing terms.

Apple sued Motorola Mobility in March 2011 after Motorola sought to collect 2.25 percent of all net sales on iOS products that use essential industry standard patents. Companies that hold patents deemed to be industry essential are expected to offer them to companies that need them under licensing terms that are fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND). However, Apple accused Motorola of unfairly seeking excessive royalty payments for the patents, which cover video streaming and Wi-Fi technology.

On Friday, U.S. District Judge Barbara B. Crabb for the Western District of Wisconsin ruled that Motorola's patents in question were FRAND and that Motorola was obligated to license them on FRAND terms under contractual obligations with ETSI and IEEE, according to the Foss Patents blog. She also found that Apple was a third-party beneficiary of those obligations.

Those findings are similar to U.S. District Judge James Robart's rulings in February regarding the same patents in a patent dispute between Microsoft and Motorola.

Crabb also found that when submitting the patents to ETSI for standards determination, Motorola did not identify essential intellectual property rights it held that might be required by the proposal before its adoption as a standard.

Crabb did grant a pair of Motorola Mobility motions, including a partial summary judgment of Apple's antitrust concerns because Apple could not prove any actual damages. Crabb also dismissed Apple's claim that Motorola interfered with Apple's relationship with chipmaker Qualcomm, again because Apple could not prove any actual harm.

Motorola has mixed it up with Apple in several courtrooms around the world. The two recently clashed over patents in Germany, forcing Apple to temporarily remove older iPhones from its online store in that country. The court later granted Apple a temporary halt on the ban.

Before Google closed its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility in May, the Web giant promised it would license the troubled cell phone maker's patents -- the principal prize in the merger -- on reasonable terms.

The Apple-Motorola case is scheduled to go to trial November 5.

CNET has contacted Apple and Motorola for comment and will update this report when we learn more.

 

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