Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Jammed schedule in January: mobile patent litigation picks up where it left off in 2011

Happy New Year!

2011 was the year when wireless patent litigation sported unprecedented growth, though one could already see that trend begin in the fourth quarter of 2010. In 2012 we're almost certainly going to see new heights in terms of the scope and intensity of the major disputes. It's way too early in the year to predict whether we'll also see a trend reversal toward more settlements and less litigations. It would be desirable for various reasons, but these lawsuits take time (especially in the U.S.) and it's quite possible that some of the major litigants won't believe at any point during the year that they have the leverage they need to command a settlement on workable terms. Also, as long as Android keeps gaining market share, Google may not be truly interested in resolving the IP issues on the table. Compared to the strategic value of market share, litigation is cheap (though it certainly isn't in absolute amounts). It depends on the decisiveness of the ITC and the district courts whether continued infringement pays off as a smart business choice.

With all that's going on, it comes as little surprise that there are some deadlines and trials in January:

  • Tomorrow (January 5, 2012) is the slightly-extended deadline for petitions for review of the initial determination by ALJ Essex on Microsoft's complaint against Motorola. The ALJ found Motorola in infringement of four claims of a Microsoft patent but not of six other patents, partly based on non-substantive reasons such as Microsoft allegedly having tried to circumvent the page limit for pleadings. I'm sure there will be a review of this preliminary ruling, and there's a high probability for a significantly different outcome. An initial determination by an ALJ is just one guy's opinion. Significant modifications occurred in both of the other smartphone-related ITC investigations that have been concluded (Apple v. HTC, S3 Graphics v. Apple), and the review of an initial determination on Kodak's complaint against Apple and RIM was recently extended by nine month.

  • On Monday (January 9, 2012), the ITC hearing on Motorola's complaint against Microsoft's Xbox gaming console will commence.

  • On or before Friday, January 13, 2012, ALJ Essex is scheduled to make his initial determination on Apple's ITC complaint against Motorola. It wouldn't surprise me if this deadline got pushed back by a few days (or more).

  • On Friday, January 20, 2012, the Mannheim Regional Court will pronounce a decision on one of seven Samsung v. Apple cases in Germany. Three hours later, the same court will hold a hearing (which amounts to a trial) on one of six German Apple v. Samsung cases.

  • On Tuesday, January 24, 2012, the Mannheim Regional Court will hold four consecutive hearings (starting at 2 PM local time) on cases brought by Motorola and its wholly-owned subsidiary General Instrument Corp. against Microsoft.

  • On Friday, January 27, 2012, the Mannheim Regional Court will pronounce a ruling on another one of seven Samsung v. Apple cases in Germany (at 9 AM).

  • On Tuesday, January 31, 2012, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court plans to pronounce (at 9 AM) its decision on Samsung's appeal against against the preliminary injunction banning the Galaxy Tab 10.1 over a design-related right held by Apple. Samsung is currently selling a modified version of the product, named the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, in the German market. Apple is also trying to ban that one, and a decision is scheduled for early February. If the appeals court lifts the preliminary injunction against the original Galaxy Tab 10.1, it's virtually certain that the 10.1N won't be banned.

  • These are the deadlines and trial dates I'm aware of. There could also be news relating to other cases and from other jurisdictions. For example, a court in Milan is still looking at a Samsung motion for an Italian preliminary injunction against the iPhone 4S, and Samsung has an appeal going against one or more decisions taken by a Dutch court last year. Also, there could be important progress at the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit with respect to appeals brought by Google (in the Oracle Java lawsuit) and Apple (against the denial of a preliminary injunction against Samsung in the U.S.).

The schedule for February will be similarly busy. Highlights include several more decisions and hearings in Germany, an ITC hearing on Microsoft's complaint against Barnes & Noble.

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