Despite Minor Legal Victory, Apple May Be Rethinking Its Game Plan
March 7, 2012

Despite Minor Legal Victory, Apple May Be Rethinking Its Game Plan

Jedidiah Becker for

As part of an ongoing patent suit, a Chicago Circuit court ordered on Tuesday that Google Inc. and Motorola´s Mobility Holdings Inc. division (MMI) hand over information about the development of Google´s Android operating system to competitor Apple Inc.

U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner will also require Google Inc. to surrender information concerning the details of its still pending acquisition of Motorola which it announced last August.

Concerning the latter, a lead Apple attorney argued last week that details of the acquisition were “highly relevant to Apple´s claims and defenses.”

“For example, the Motorola products accused of infringing the Apple asserted patents run on Google's Android operating system, and the amount that Google paid to acquire and develop Android and the asserted features is thus relevant to the non-obviousness and value of the patented functionalities,” wrote an Apple representative last Friday.

“Similarly, Google´s purchase of Motorola — including the Motorola smartphones and tablets accused of infringing Apple´s patents — is also relevant to the nonobviousness and value of the patented features as such discovery will show, for example, the value that Google placed on the patented features and accused products in its decision to acquire Motorola.”

Motorola challenged Apple´s request, maintaining that Google is not yet their official proprietor and is thus not a party to the lawsuit.

“Google´s employees and documents are not within the ℠possession, custody, or control´ of Motorola, and Motorola cannot force Google to produce documents or witnesses over Google´s objections,” Motorola attorneys noted in a court filing.

After a weekend to ruminate on Apple´s request, Judge Posner wrote Monday that: “Apple´s motion of March 2 to compel Motorola and Google to provide discovery concerning Google´s acquisition of Android, Inc., Google´s development of the Android OS, and Google´s acquisition of Motorola is granted.”

Signs of a Ceasefire

Yet despite this week´s minor legal triumph, Apple´s aggressive use of patents to fend off competitors has entangled the world´s chicest tech company in dozens of lawsuits around the globe. Faced with only modest successes and with no clear end in sight, Apple may have found itself in a position in which the best-possible outcome looks an awful lot like a Pyrrhic victory.

In the case of its two-year struggle with Android, for instance, Apple´s bid to use the courts as a means to curb the growing popularity of its iOS rival has proven largely ineffective. Dishing out millions in legal fees with little to show for it, the California-based tech wizards have had to sit back and watch as the Android operating system gobbles up an ever-larger size of a market they once dominated.

Thus it was not entirely surprising when on Tuesday Ian Sherr of Dow Jones Newswire wrote that Apple may be considering a shift in its legal strategy.

Likely weary and disheartened by the meager successes acquired through multi-front, transnational patent warfare, Sherr says that Apple has indicated that it may be willing to resolve various pending lawsuits in exchange for royalty payments and licensing of its patents.

None of the involved parties have as yet commented on whether settlement talks are already taking place.

Yet like many observers of the tech industry, CNET News executive editor Roger Cheng welcomed the news of an out-of-court settlement and a potential end to the era of corporate acrimony.

“A licensing deal would put to an end an ugly and distracting period where smartphone companies have been going after each other both in the marketplace and in the courtroom.”


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