Thursday, June 7, 2012

Apple-Motorola jury trial in Chicago canceled, but the lawsuit isn't over yet

[Update] Meanwhile Judge Posner has entered a tentative order dismissing the case with prejudice because no party can establish relief. A detailed order will come down within a week, but most likely this is now headed for the Federal Circuit. Given where things stood before the pretrial conference, it's in Motorola's interest to avoid the four patents Apple is asserting in Chicago, but in the greater scheme of things, it also means that Google won't be able to win any ruling in the U.S. against Apple before 2014 other than an ITC decision, which is increasingly unlikely to be the import ban it requested. For Google's ambitions to stop Apple's assertions against Android, and in light of the $12.5 billion it just coughed up for Motorola, that's a setback. [/Update]

A news agency just reported that next week's Apple v. Motorola trial in Chicago "was canceled by a federal judge who rejected damage arguments by both sides". I have been following this case closely and previously reported on the possibility of a cancelation. I have done some research on what exactly happened at the pretrial conference that started at 12:30 PM local time today.

Judge Posner had previously tossed both parties' damages claims and said at the beginning of today's pretrial conference that the parties weren't entitled to damages, so he canceled the jury trial that was scheduled to begin next Monday. But it's important to understand that the cancelation of a jury trial isn't necessarily the end of a lawsuit. Here's why:

A jury is needed only if damages have to be determined in the event of a finding of liability for infringement, but it's not needed for a decision on whether or not to grant an injunction. Damages are a remedy at law, while injunctive relief is an equitable remedy. Equitable remedies are decided by judges, not juries. Therefore, if only equitable remedies are at issue in a lawsuit, there's no need for a jury even in connection with the question of liability (infringement, validity etc.).

The judge has not yet decided on whether the parties are entitled to injunctive relief. He is now thinking about this and will enter a written order at a later time. If he decides that injunctive relief is a possibility with respect to one or more patents (Apple has four patents in play, as compared to one Motorola FRAND patent), then there could still be a bench trial (the parties would present their witnesses and make their arguments in front of Judge Posner.

Another question that has yet to be answered is whether the parties are entitled to declaratory judgment even with respect to patents that won't result in any remedy.

Apple appears to be very interested in getting decisions on its four patents-in-suit, while Google/Motorola would prefer for this lawsuit to go nowhere. From a strategic point of view, an injunction would be far more valuable to either party than damages. In Motorola's case, I believe its FRAND licensing obligations are a strong reason to deny injunctive relief.

For now, let's wait and see. Judge Posner's written order will show the way.

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