Apple v. Google: Will Reopened Legal Dispute Benefit Samsung?

Source: Thinkstock

Source: Thinkstock

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has reopened a patent-infringement case involving Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Motorola Mobility, reports Bloomberg’s Businessweek. Each smartphone maker accuses the other of violating its patents. Google inherited the case when it purchased Motorola Mobility in 2012 for $12.5 billion in order to acquire the company’s many patents. Google is currently in the process of selling the company to Chinese PC maker Lenovo. However, it is unclear if this patent case will be handed off to Lenovo, since Google will still maintain control of the majority of Motorola Mobility’s valuable patent portfolio.

The two lawsuits were consolidated into one case in 2012 by Judge Richard Posner in the Northern District of Illinois. As noted by Reuters, Judge Posner subsequently dismissed the case after determining that both companies lacked sufficient evidence of infringement for the case to proceed to trial.

In the original case, Motorola was seeking damages and injunctive relief over Apple’s alleged violation of three standard-essential patents, or SEPs. Although two of Motorola’s patent claims have been dismissed, the appeals court allowed the company to proceed with a damages claim on the third patent. However, the court also affirmed that Motorola Mobility would not be entitled to a sales ban on Apple products that use technology covered by the SEP patent in dispute, reports Bloomberg.

Apple was also seeking damages and injunctive relief from Motorola in its original lawsuit. However, the three patent claims that Apple is seeking damages over are non-SEPs, which are not covered by FRAND (fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory) licensing obligations. According to FRAND licensing obligations, companies that hold SEPS are supposed to offer reasonable licensing rates to willing licensees. Apple has accused Motorola of charging an unreasonable licensing rate for its SEP, while Motorola has alleged that Apple is an unwilling licensee for refusing to pay the royalty rate.

Although the recent ruling allows Apple to pursue its infringement claims against Motorola, another aspect of the appeals court’s decision could negatively impact Apple’s ongoing patent-infringement case against Samsung (SSNLF.PK). As noted by patent expert Florian Mueller at FOSSPatents, the appeals court affirmed Judge Posner’s construction of an Apple patent that covers a “quick links” data detection method. This patent – which was considered one of the key patents in Apple’s case against Samsung – had its value drastically reduced by Posner’s construction.

Unfortunately for Apple, Judge Posner’s recently affirmed construction of that patent essentially cuts the iPhone maker’s damages claim by about a third. Apple was seeking approximately $2 billion in damages from Samsung. According to a tweet from CNET’s Shara Tibken, both sides will be given extra time to present expert testimony on Monday due to the appeals court’s ruling on the “quick links” patent. Although Apple is suing Samsung over products it claims are infringing on its patents, many industry watchers believe that the lawsuit against Samsung can also be viewed as a proxy war on Google, since Apple’s case revolves around technologies that are found in the Android mobile operating system.

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