Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Apple expands attack on HTC's acquired patents, tries to kill two pending cases at once

Apple has already won a dismissal from an ITC investigation of five patents HTC acquired from Google last year, and it's now trying to get rid of four more Google loan patents that HTC asserted in another venue (the United States District Court for the District of Delaware) as well as two patents HTC acquired from ADC Telecommunications and asserted in the same ITC complaint as the five meanwhile-dismissed Google patents.

The headline of an Apple motion filed with the ITC late on Monday just entered the public record (click on the image to enlarge or read the text below the image):

Doc Title: Respondent Apple Inc.'s Motion for Termination of the Investigation with Respect to U.S. Patent Nos. 7,672,219 and 7,417,944 Due to Lack of Standing

The motion itself is sealed. The issue that Apple raises, "lack of standing", is the same as the one that resulted in the dismissal of five Google patents. The ADC-HTC patent purchase agreement is most likely different from the Google-HTC deal, but apparently Apple believes that contract also has some shortcomings.

At some point, this ITC investigation related to eight patents, but with the five Google patents having been thrown out and HTC having withdrawn a homegrown patent, the two remaining patents are the ones HTC bought from ADC. If Apple's motion succeeds, the ITC investigation will be closed.

Apple has also raised a FRAND defense against those ADC patents in counterclaims that were removed from the ITC to the Eastern District of Virginia.

In related news, Apple isn't done yet throwing out former Google patents. HTC acquired at least nine patents from Google. It asserted five of them in its ITC complaint as well as a companion federal lawsuit in the District of Delaware, and four only in federal court (Delaware, again). Last week, Apple and HTC filed a stipulation "to stay proceedings [in the four-patent Delaware action] and expedite briefing on Apple Inc.'s standing defense". While HTC will oppose Apple's claim that it lacks standing, it agreed to a joint filing that refers to standing as a "potentially case dispositive issue" (an undeniable truth).

The parties agreed that Apple will file a motion to dismiss that Delaware lawsuit until August 22. HTC will respond eight days later. Apple gets to file a reply brief on September 7. The parties would also like to have a court hearing shortly after the briefing process.

As the filing says, "HTC and Apple believe that granting a temporary stay of discovery, currently scheduled pretrial deadlines, and the currently scheduled mediation will conserve judicial economy and efficiency by deferring the Court’s involvement in hearing potentially unnecessary discovery disputes and substantive issues."

This is a smart move for both of them. Nobody wants to waste time on a case that will simply go away if the Delaware-based court arrives at the same conclusion concerning the HTC-Google patent purchase agreement that an Administrative Law Judge, the ITC staff and the Commission (the six-member decision-making body at the top of the ITC) previously reached.

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