Motorola Lost Patent Rights to Google, Apple Says

Motorola Lost Patent Rights to Google, Apple Says

Apple filed motions to stay two of its patent lawsuits against Motorola, showing the early impact of the Google-Motorola acquisition on legal action in the tech industry.

The Cupertino, Calif.-based company’s motions, filed in both Florida and Wisconsin courts, argues Google’s $12.5 billion buyout of Motorola results in a “fundamental loss” of rights for Motorola, since the pending merger makes Google owner of the phone maker’s 17,000 mobile patents.

The iPhone maker wants courts to temporarily halt movement on two of its Motorola cases until the acquisition is complete.

Apple argues Google’s terms allegedly limit Motorola’s ability to enforce patents, license them, and make deals and settlements over them.

“Motorola has ceded control of the most basic rights regarding the patents-in-suit,” Apple’s lawyers wrote in a court filing. “Absent Google’s consent, Motorola cannot: (1) sue for infringement of its patents in any new action; (2) settle pending litigation (including this case) that would require a license to any of its patents; (3) license or sublicense its patents except in limited circumstances relating to the sale of Motorola’s products; (4) assign its rights in its patents; and/or (5) grant a covenant not to sue for infringement of its patents.”

Any action made by Motorola before its official acquisition over its patents could be overturned once Google takes ownership of patents and legal controls, Apple says.

Motorola filed one suit against Apple in Florida, with both companies asserting six patents each, according to intellectual property blog FOSS Patents. The other was filed by Apple in Wisconsin, with Apple asserting 15 patents and Motorola asserting six patents.

Apple’s Motorola suit is just one of many legal efforts by the iPhone maker targeting Android-based rivals in courts over patent infringement. The company has suits and trade injunction requests filed against HTC and Samsung, among others.

Its Motorola cases may be uniquely impacted by the pending Google acquisition. A ruling of Motorola’s ineligibility, due to the Google acquisition, would leave only Apple’s case against Motorola standing. The Schaumburg, Ill.-based phone maker may likely decide to settle the suit in that event rather than risk a loss.

However, Motorola may attempt to argue that some or all of its cases be given a summary judgment by the court before the trial begins, never involving Google at all.

Apple initially sued Motorola because of alleged similarities between its Droid smartphones and Apple’s iPhone. The acquisition of Motorola is expected to close by the end of 2011 or early 2012, according to Google. The search giant contends the deal doesn’t affect existing legal cases.

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