Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Next Apple-Motorola U.S. trial scheduled for October 2013

Two Apple v. Motorola Mobility trials were cancelled, including one that was supposed to commence yesterday. They still have other cases pending in the U.S., not only at the Federal Circuit and the ITC but also in federal court. Even though history sometimes repeats itself, it is only a question of time when they will finally square off in U.S. federal court.

A case pending in the Southern District of Florida currently has a spring 2014 trial date. And yesterday the United States District Court for the Southern District of California entered a case management order setting the schedule for a patent exhaustion-related "antisuit lawsuit" that Apple brought against Motorola Mobility in February 2012 and had to refile twice, most recently in August, before the case could finally go ahead. That action focuses on an issue that Judge Crabb in Wisconsin didn't want to touch on because she thought it was untimely in that particular action: the question of patent exhaustion. Motorola Mobility has a patent cross-license agreement in place with Qualcomm, and Apple wants to ensure in Southern California that Motorola will be barred, on a worldwide basis excluding Germany (where the parties are now litigating over the appropriate royalty rate), from enforcing cellular SEPs against Apple's products that come with a Qualcomm baseband chip (i.e., all Apple products starting with the iPhone 4S and the 4G version of the third-generation iPad).

With a court decision holding that Apple's products incorporating a Qualcomm baseband chip are safe from Motorola's SEP assertions, the wholly-owned Google subsidiary would be limited in its enforcement of cellular SEPs to obsolete Apple products. Injunctions wouldn't have much impact. Damages would only be a thing of the past.

The Southern California-based court wants to resolve this matter fairly swiftly. The discovery deadline is May 31, 2013, and pretrial motions will be due on June 28, 2013. On July 15, 2013, Apple and Google will have to meet for court-moderated settlement talks, in preparation for which they'll have to state a "specific and current demand or offer" for a settlement. If this mediation effort is just as unsuccessful as other court-ordered negotiations in smartphone patent cases have recently been, the matter will have to go to trial. The order does not specify a trial date per se, but it does say that the final pretrial conference will take place on October 18, 2013. Typically, trials take place within a week or two -- and sometimes only hours -- of the final pretrial conference.

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