The second week of September has been a big one for Apple. On Sept. 10, the company announced its latest iterations if the iPhone. And on the following day, Apple’s attorneys argued that a federal judge was incorrect in throwing out a lawsuit the Cupertino-based tech firm had brought against Motorola.
In June 2012, Judge Richard Posner tossed out Apple’s suit, which alleged that Motorola had infringed on significant patents related to the iPhone. But on Sept. 11 of this year, a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit seemed receptive to Apple’s arguments that Posner was incorrect in tossing out the suit.
The entirety of the three-judge panel appeared to believe that Posner was incorrect in his decision and indicated that Posner made errors in interpreting Apple’s patents, The Wall Street Journal reported.
This could represent a small victory for Apple in its arms race with Motorola, but at this point, it is unclear if Apple will have another chance to block Motorola from selling these infringing devices. The issue is muddied, in part, due to action taken by the International Trade Commission (ITC), which ordered that Apple devices that infringed on patents owned by Samsung could not be imported.
The issue in this case boils down to how standard-essential patents (SEP) should be handled. Patents that are considered part of industry standards give companies huge benefits, but they are held in check by the concept of fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory use (FRAND).
The ITC ruled that FRAND-encumbered SEPs can get exclusion orders, but judge Posner disagreed in the Apple/Motorola case. Motorola argued this point on Sept. 11, but the three-judge panel seemed less than receptive to the Google subsidiary’s lawyers, the Journal said.
This increasingly complex web of patent disputes involving the largest tech giants in the world is further tangled by conflicting rulings, multiple suits and constant gamesmanship. This most recent hearing seems to give Apple a slight edge and could represent a small defeat for Motorola, but the situation is far from over, and future cases could change the landscape considerably.