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Judge: Ban on Motorola phone sales could be 'catastrophic'

Without issuing a ruling on Apple's request, the judge suggests ordering Motorola to pay compulsory royalties would be better for the courts and consumers.

A U.S. judge strongly questioned Apple's bid for an injunction against Motorola smartphones today, saying a ban on sales could have "catastrophic effects."

Judge Richard Posner of the U.S. District of Northern Illinois, who is presiding over the hearing to determine whether to grant Apple injunctive relief against Motorola phones that allegedly infringe on Apple patents, also said the U.S. patent system was in a state of "chaos," according to a Reuters account of the hearing.

Earlier this month, Posner canceled Apple's patent infringement jury trial against Google's Motorola Mobility unit, then granted Apple's request for an injunction hearing.

Apple attorney Matthew Powers told the court today that Apple is not seeking a ban on the sale of Motorola phones but rather would be satisfied with an order forcing Motorola to remove certain Apple-patented technology from its phones within three months.

"It means we're not competing with them where they are using our technology against us," Powers reportedly said.

Posner suggested that forcing Motorola to pay royalties might be preferable to forcing Motorola to adopt inferior technology, which would not benefit consumers.

Posner also said compulsory royalties would prevent Apple from returning to court in three months to accuse Motorola of continued infringement.

"That's all we need is new actions, new suits, because there's not enough litigation worldwide between Apple and Android," Posner said.

Apple and Motorola have been mired in a series of patent lawsuits against each other. Motorola's initial suits have claimed that Apple infringed several of its wireless and smartphone technologies. Apple's countersuits have alleged that Motorola has violated some of its own key patents.