Judge cancels Apple-Motorola patent trial

A federal judge in Illinois tentatively canceled a patent trial set to begin between Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Google's (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Mobility unit, citing a lack of evidence of harm the two sides have suffered.

U.S. Judge Richard Posner said each side's damages claims could not be established. The trial was set to begin June 11.

"I have tentatively decided that the case should be dismissed with prejudice because neither party can establish a right to relief," Posner said in a two-page written order, adding that he will not make a final decision until he issues a lengthier order. "I may change my mind."

Posner also wrote that granting injunctions against patent infringements would impose costs disproportionate to the harm or benefit on each side, and would not be in the public interest.

"We are pleased by the Illinois trial court's tentative ruling today dismissing Apple's patent claims and look forward to receiving the full decision," Google said in a statement. Apple declined to comment, according to media reports.

The decision comes amid a backdrop of continuing smartphone patent litigation between Apple and Samsung and HTC, as well as between Motorola and Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and among several other companies. One route that some companies, including Apple, have taken is to ask the U.S. International Trade Commission to ban the importation of devices that infringe on their patents, which the ITC has the power to do.

However, the Federal Trade Commission recommended that there be limits to using standards-essential patents to block imports, saying the practice of doing so may harm competition, innovation and consumers. Motorola has tried to block Apple and Microsoft products using this tactic. Verizon Wireless (NYSE:VZ), Nokia (NYSE:NOK) and Hewlett-Packard were among the companies that praised the FTC's stance.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this IDG News Service article

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