Despite his earlier tentative decision to end the patent action in a Chicago court, Judge Posner changed his mind and has confirmed he will hear Apple’s plea for injunctive relief against several Motorola mobile phones.
The judge’s earlier pronouncement was that any injunction would be contrary to the public interest, effectively scuppering Apple’s attempt to have its competitor’s devices banned in the US. Apple immediately objected to that ruling, and after weighing up the options and consequences, Judge Posner has agreed to allow the two sides to make their case for injunctions.
While Judge Posner’s reasons for canceling the trial in the first place remain, he apparently saw the possibility of his findings being contested on appeal, something the experienced jurist would no doubt rather avoid given his stellar record in the handing down of uncontested decisions.
With this move, he makes the likelihood of appeal far lower than it would be, had he stayed his previous course, and the trial will now continue with both sides being required to prove their need for an injunction. While it’s certainly possible that either party might convince the judge of a case for injunctive relief, the judge has made it clear that the ‘harm’ and ‘damages’ arguments given by both sides in the trial to this point were weak and vague, suggesting that their getting injunctive relief awarded is a faint hope at best.
Besides Apple’s usual MO of attempting to have its competition litigated out of the market, requesting an injunction was in its best interests given that it had more patents left in play at the end of the pre-trial process than did Motorola Mobility, giving Cupertino’s iDevice vendor a slight edge in obtaining a successful outcome.
An unexpected development
In an unexpected twist, Judge Posner has warned that injunction is not the sole means of relief and announced “The parties should be prepared to address the possibility of substitution for an injunction of an equitable decree for a reasonable royalty going forward.” This will not please Apple, the company being notoriously disinclined to license its patents and clearly wanting its competitor’s devices removed from the market so the iPhone won’t face that competition.
However, it seems that at least one juror is wary of Apple’s continuing to use the US justice system as an arm of its own marketing department, so consequently, it will be interesting to see if Apple will continue with the request for injunction.
Motorola, on the other hand, had its patent claims reduced to just a single FRAND (Fair, Reasonable And Non Discriminatory) example, with significantly less chance of being granted an injunction as a result. Obviously they will be less happy with the judge’s agreement to hear the arguments, but will be relieved to know that should they be unsuccessful, the option of royalties will be less painful.
However, based on Judge Posner’s rulings to this point, the probabilities of a successful application for injunctive relief are somewhat unlikely anyway, giving this latest development an air of inevitable stalemate. The hearing will now continue on June 20 and we’ll keep you posted on the outcome.