image via TechnoBuffalo
As Reuters reports, Wednesday's court action stems from the two firms' 2010 decision to take each other to court, each alleging patent infringement on the part of the other. The suits were eventually dismissed by U.S. District Judge Richard Posner, who found that neither party had the evidence necessary to prove its case.
Apple had maintained that Motorola's devices ? as Apple charges with many Android-powered devices ? copied a number of Apple's patented features from its iOS platform. Countering, Motorola claimed that Apple's iPhone infringed a standards-essential patent, a type of patent deemed necessary to the regular function of a piece of technology.
It is Motorola that has been pushing for the case to be reopened in the time since. The now Google-owned mobile phone maker contends that Apple has been an unwilling licensee ? or has refused to negotiate seriously on licensing fees ? for the standards-essential patent Motorola holds. Apple has denied Motorola's accusations, claiming instead that Motorola is asking Apple to pay 12 times its previous rate to license the technology
The three-judge panel hearing the case on Wednesday reportedly peppered attorneys for both sides with questions on the degree of cooperation between the two parties in settling their licensing disagreement. The two sides also debated the use of expert witnesses in any possible new trial. In the last trial, Judge Posner dismissed expert witnesses for both Apple and Motorola.
For Motorola, a new trial could be the ailing phone maker's best shot at regaining footing in the worldwide patent battles among tech giants. Motorola recently suffered a sizable setback in its patent litigation efforts, with a federal judge ruling it must pay Microsoft $14.5 million in damages.
In that defeat, as in the current stalemate with Apple, Motorola was arguing for higher licensing fees over a standards-essential patent. The court found that Motorola had not been fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) in its licensing negotiations with Microsoft. The FRAND standard has become an essential tool in preventing anti-competitive actions by SEP holders in a number of industries.
The loss was a blow against Motorola, especially in terms of perception. Observers noted at the time that the verdict made Google-owned Motorola "a convicted patent troll." Spokespersons for Microsoft largely concurred in their remarks following the trial.
"This is a landmark win for all who want products that are more affordable and work well together," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "The jury's verdict is the latest in a growing list of decisions by regulators and courts telling Google to stop abusing patents."