Apple seeks delay in Motorola suits

Apple's motions call for a delay in two lawsuits involving Motorola, arguing that the latter's pending acquisition by Google means that Motorola has lost its patent rights.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Apple is looking to put on hold two lawsuits involving Motorola, arguing that the handset maker has lost its patent rights as a result of its acquisition deal with Google.

The company filed motions in two separate U.S. District courts last Friday to delay the suits. Apple contends that under the merger agreement with Google, Motorola is limited in its ability to enforce its own patents or negotiate any legal settlements, explained Florian Mueller, founder of the Foss Patents blog..

In Apple's view, moving forward with the two lawsuits would potentially be a no-win situation for itself. If Motorola were to win in court with any of its claims, according to Apple, then Apple would have spent time and money fighting a company that can't legally enforce the patents in question.

But if Apple were to win, there's a chance the ruling could be overturned on appeal and even reopened by Google or another company.

"[W]ere Apple to prevail in this case, it risks an attack on its victory on appeal by a third party, whether Google or another Android smartphone manufacturer, contending that the judgment should be overturned due to a lack of prudential standing," stated one of Apple's motions, according to Mueller.

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One of the lawsuits in question was initiated by Motorola in U.S. District Court in Southern District of Florida with both companies asserting 6 patents each, while the other was launched by Apple in U.S. District Court in the Western District of Wisconsin, with Apple asserting 15 patents and Motorola 6 patents, Mueller said.

But the two companies have been embroiled in a lengthy series of patent infringement suits since last year.

Last October, Motorola sued Apple, claiming that it violated 18 separate patents by including Motorola technology in its iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and certain Mac computers. Later that month, Apple volleyed back with two suits against Motorola, alleging that it violated Apple patents for multitouch by including the feature in several of its Droid smartphones and other handsets.

In November, the U.S. International Trade Commission officially stepped in by agreeing to look into Apple's claims against Motorola.

This past spring, the two companies were at it again, with Motorola filling a patent suit against Apple in Germany, prompting Apple to countersue in May, alleging patent infringement over the Motorola Xoom tablet.

But the two cases mentioned by Apple in its motions are apparently the only ones cited so far in its request for a postponement. The Wisconsin case is set to go to court on April 30, 2012, while the Florida case will go before a judge on August 13 of next year.

Following Google's announcement that it would acquire Motorola, Google's Chief Legal Officer David Drummond said that the ongoing lawsuits between Motorola and other companies will be managed by Motorola just as they were before the sale. However, Drummond also added that be believes Google is now in a "very good position" to be able to protect partners within the Android ecosystem.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's requests for comment. A Motorola representative said that the company does not comment on pending litigation.

Updated at 10:15 a.m. PT with Motorola's response.