(Adds details on decision, background on dispute)
By Diane Bartz and Dan Levine
WASHINGTON, April 25 A U.S. appeals court on
Friday revived patent claims Apple made against Google's
Motorola Mobility unit that had been dismissed shortly before
trial, giving the iPhone maker another chance to seek a sales
ban against its smartphone competitor.
The appeals court also revived a patent claim Motorola
Mobility had made against Apple but ruled Motorola could not
seek a sales ban of its own.
Apple and companies that make phones using Google's Android
software have filed dozens of such lawsuits against each other
around the world to protect their technology. Apple, in
particular, argues that Android phones that use Google software
copy its iPhones.
In litigation between technology companies that boast
multi-billion dollar margins, court-ordered sales bans are seen
as a far more serious threat than monetary damages. Despite
years of court challenges to Android, Apple has not been able to
win a crippling injunction.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had been
hearing two cases - one in which Apple accused Motorola
Mobility, which has since been bought by Google, of infringing
its patents. Motorola, in turn, accused Apple of infringing
three patents, including one that is essential to ensuring
smartphones are interoperable.
The cases were consolidated at the U.S. District Court for
the Northern District of Illinois. Judge Richard Posner, who
took the case, dismissed it in 2012 before trial, saying that
neither company had sufficient evidence to prove its case.
The appeals court considered six patents in the two cases -
three belonging to Apple and three to Motorola Mobility. The two
companies had appealed a variety of issues, ranging from the
definitions of some patents to whether money damages were
sufficient for infringement or if sales bans should be put on
Posner had ruled an injunction barring the sale of Motorola
phones would harm consumers. He also had ruled that even if
infringement occurred, Apple could not sue because it could not
prove it had been hurt by the infringement. But the appeals
court decided Posner defined one of Apple's patents too narrowly
and ordered him to reconsider Apple's request for an injunction.
The appeals court affirmed the lower court's decisions on
two Motorola Mobility patents. But, as in the case of the Apple
patent, it disagreed with the lower court's decision that
Motorola Mobility would be entitled to no damages even if
infringement was proven on a third patent. The appeals court
said, however, that Motorola Mobility cannot request an
injunction for infringement of that patent, the appeals court
Since the appeal began, Google announced that it was selling
Motorola Mobility's handset business to Lenovo but would keep
the vast majority of the patents. It is unclear if Lenovo will
assume liability in the patent fights.
Apple and Google both declined to comment.
The case is at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal
Circuit and is Apple Inc. V. Motorola Mobility. It is case
number 2012-1528, -1549.
(Reporting by Diane Bartz and Dan Levine; Editing by Doina
Chiacu and Dan Grebler)