Judge narrows Apple and Motorola patent battle to five points


U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner has significantly narrowed the high-profile patent litigation between Apple and Motorola over the technology used in their iOS and Android-powered mobile devices, reducing the number of claims in the case that could go to trial from eight to five. Posner ruled that one of Apple’s patents in the case is invalid, and that Apple was not guilty of infringing on Motorola patents for authenticating telecommunications users and encrypting communications. However, the five remaining issues are eligible to go to trial. Posner has given the companies until January 23 to decide which of the remaining five issues they want tried; the jury trail has been scheduled to start June 11.

The ruling comes just days after Motorola won an early victory against Apple with the International Trade Commission, in which an administrative judge ruled Motorola smartphones weren’t violating three Apple patents. Apple’s complaint now moves on to a full ITC panel.

Judge Posner was hearing the case by special designation from a lower-court case in Chicago. He ruled that an Apple patent detailing a method for drawing graphics on a display was invalid because it was too vague; however, he also ruled that Apple was not guilty of infringing on two Motorola patents, finding one had been anticipated by earlier patents.

So far, neither Apple nor Motorola have commented on Judge Posner’s ruling.

The patent infringement case between Apple and Motorola could soon become the first direct conflict between Apple and Google over Android, which Apple co-founder Steve Jobs famously considered a “stolen product.” Until now, Apple has been content to target Android device makers like Samsung, HTC, and Motorola with its litigation; however, since Motorola Mobility is currently in the process of being acquired by Google, the Motorola case could shift into a direct conflict between Apple and Google. Google has consistently claimed it doesn’t want Motorola Mobility so it can get into the Android handset business itself; rather, it wants Motorola’s extensive intellectual property portfolio to protect Android from litigation from the likes of Apple, Oracle, and Microsoft.