Judge Disses Apple for Frivolous Lawsuits

Motorola Mobility (NYSE:MMI) has received another boost in a patent argument against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), this time in a case filed by the latter. A U.S. Circuit judge ruled that Apple’s “finger swipe” patent-infringement claim was invalid as tapping an item on a touch screen wasn’t the same as swiping it.

“Apple contends that the finger swipe is equivalent to a finger tap because the two gestures are interchangeable,” Judge Richard A. Posner wrote. “If consumers distinguish between the two, they are not interchangeable.”

The two have been involved in multiple smartphone- and tablet-related cases against each other, and the judge added that he had had enough of Apple’s “frivolous filings.” The reaction was prompted by Apple trying to block Motorola’s deposition of one of its expert witnesses.

“I deny the second half of Apple’s motion (seeking prohibition of the deposition) as frivolous and the first half (seeking substitution) as untimely,” Posner wrote. “I’ve had my fill of frivolous filings by Apple. The next such motion, and I shall forbid it to file any motions without first moving for leave to file.”

The judge is to begin a trial between the two companies on claims on June 11 and his threat “could put Apple at a practical (but not substantive) disadvantage relative to Motorola,” according to FOSS Patents’ Florian Mueller. The arguments will be resolved in four trials, one addressing each company’s liability claims, followed by damages, if needed.

As far as the finger swipe ruling goes, while Apple had claimed that six applications on Motorola devices infringed its finger-tap functionality patent, Posner limited his ruling to an Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) application that lets readers access e-books. He held that Motorola wasn’t liable for infringement caused when users downloaded and installed Amazon’s Kindle reader application on their Motorola devices.

Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) is set to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Last week, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge had ruled that Apple violated a Motorola patent related to eliminating noise.