Monday, April 9, 2012

Judge Posner denies Motorola motion to throw out Apple's touchscreen heuristics patent

In two months (plus two days), a highly important Apple v. Motorola trial will begin in Chicago. The case originally involved 15 Apple and 6 Motorola patents but has been narrowed to a fraction of the original claims.

In my opinion, the most important Apple patent at issue in that litigation is the touchscreen heuristics patent, or '949 patent. The week before last, Judge Posner deemed the largest part of that key patent valid. He issued a separate order on that important patent after deciding on claim constructions related to various other patents-in-suit.

On April 2, 2012, Motorola filed four summary judgment motions, asking the judge to rule that it doesn't infringe Apple's '263, '002, '647 and '949 patents. Apple brought a motion for summary judgment of non-infringement and invalidity of Motorola's '559 patent.

I'm watching this case closely and still waiting for the judge's decisions on these motions to enter the public record. No such order has appeared yet, but today Apple filed a document that says "[t]he Court's April 7, 2012 Order denied Motorola's summary judgment motion of noninfringement on the 949 patent".

April 7 was Saturday. This 73-year-old judge works very hard.

Given the strategic importance of this patent, I thought this information was worth a dedicated blog post.

Based on the constructions Judge Posner had adopted (which were consistent with Apple's proposals), I considered Motorola's summary judgment motion a lost cause from the outset. By comparison, I thought Motorola would have decent chances of possibly being found not to infringe the '647 data tapping patent (the one that the ITC found HTC to infringe), and we will probablxy know soon what happened to that particular motion. The outcome of claim construction had strengthened Motorola's defenses against the data tapping patent, but Motorola will most likely be found to infringe the touchscreen heuristics patent. It's a pretty straightforward patent that a jury will be able to understand much better than most other patents.

Motorola's strongest patent in this litigation is a standard-essential patents, and I believe Apple's FRAND defense will succeed against that one.

If Apple wins an injunction against further infringement of the '949 patent while fending off Motorola's standard-essential patent, Google and Motorola will have to persuade the Federal Circuit to stay such an injunction for the duration of the appeal or they will be forced to settle the whole dispute on terms that would be very favorable to Apple's strategic interests.

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