Judge grills Apple in Google smartphone case
By Dan Levine
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday strongly questioned Apple Inc's bid for an injunction against Google Inc's Motorola Mobility unit, as the iPhone maker tries to salvage its position on a key front in the smartphone patent wars.
Federal Judge Richard Posner in Chicago did not make any formal rulings from the bench during the hearing, which was a chance for Apple to plead its case for an injunction against Motorola phones that allegedly use its technology. But Posner called the U.S. patent system "chaos" and said an order barring the sale of Motorola phones could have "catastrophic effects."
Posner earlier this month tentatively canceled an impending trial between the two technology companies, but scheduled the Wednesday hearing so Apple could argue for the injunction.
Apple has waged an international patent war since 2010 as part of its attempt to limit the growth of Google's Android system, the world's best-selling mobile operating platform. A decisive injunction in one of the U.S. legal cases could strengthen Apple's hand in negotiating cross-licensing deals, where companies agree to let each other use their patented technologies.
Opponents of Apple, meanwhile, say the iPhone and iPad maker is using patents too aggressively in its bid to stamp out the competition.
Motorola sued Apple in October 2010, a move widely seen as a preemptive strike. Apple filed its own lawsuit against Motorola the same month. Apple is also slated for trial against Samsung Electronics Co Ltd next month in California.
Posner issued a series of pretrial rulings that eliminated nearly all of Motorola's patent claims against Apple, while maintaining more of Apple's claims against Motorola. That meant Apple had more to gain at the trial, which had been set to start last week.
But Posner tentatively ruled that neither side could prove damages and scrapped the trial. An injunction would be "contrary to the public interest," Posner wrote. Continued...