Apple v Motorola: The Scope is Bigger than Smartphone Patent Infringement

Apple and Motorola are set to appear in the U.S. Court of Appeals on September 11 to jointly attempt to get their patent infringement cases against each other reinstated after they were dismissed by Judge Richard Posner. The companies have been fighting over mobile device patent infringement claims, and other companies have an interest in outcome of this case since it could set a precedent for future SEP and FRAND patent cases.

Apple and Motorola's patent infringement trial appeal could lead to new case lawApple and Motorola's patent infringement trial appeal could lead to important new case law

Much like Apple's patent fight with Samsung, it has been dealing with infringement claims and counterclaims with Motorola Mobility. Judge Posner dismissed the case with prejudice in June 2012, leaving both Apple and Motorola with an appeal as their only recourse.

If the case isn't brought back to life, the two companies can't try to refile because Judge Posner's dismissal with prejudice means refiling isn't an option. He found that neither side had proven they suffered damages over patent infringement and said it would be "ridiculous to dismiss a suit for failure to prove damages and allow the plaintiff to refile the suit so that he could have a second chance to prove damages."

The patent fight between Apple and Motorola started in 2010 when Motorola filed a patent infringement lawsuit claiming Apple was using technology it patented and wasn't paying licensing fees. Apple responded with a infringement case of its own alleging Motorola's smartphones infringe on multitouch patents covering technology used in the iPhone, iPad and iPod touch.

Microsoft and Intel have a strong interest in the outcome of the appeal hearing because it most likely will set a precedent for how courts view injunctions related to standards essential (SEP) and fair and reasonable use (FRAND) related patents. Both companies, like Apple, oppose injunctions blocking the sale of devices over infringement on patents considered SEP or FRAND, which is something Motorola was pushing for in this case.

What Apple, Microsoft, and Intel are hoping for is a ruling that helps their position and ultimately keeps companies from using the threat of injunctions in SEP and FRAND-related patent infringement cases. Apple would also like the chance to prove Motorola has, in fact, infringed on its mobile device patents in a way that warrants a damages award.

The idea that companies could see their products blocked from sale in the U.S. over patents considered essential for the device market has at least some companies worried. SEP-covered patents could potentially be used as tools to try to unfairly force competitors out of a market with little recourse and -- taken to an extreme -- could lead to patent abuse that's far worse than anything companies are dealing with today.

Judge Posner is well versed in patent law and his choice of words he chose when throwing out the Apple and Motorola patent infringement case were well thought out. That doesn't, however, mean that there isn't any chance for a reversal at the September appeal.

What seems more likely than a complete reversal is a change in part of Judge Posner's ruling. If Apple's legal team plays its cards right, the Appeals ruling with give us case law that helps stop SEP-related injunctions and that, regardless of whether or not Apple sees its trial against Motorola find its way back into court, would still be a win.