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Apple's anti-Googorola patent lawsuit tossed by US court

Big setback for Cupertino's scorched-earth patent offensive

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The Wisconsin US District Court was scheduled to have begun hearing Apple's patent lawsuit against Google's Motorola Mobility division on Monday afternoon, but don't bother trying to track down a live blog: just hours before that trial was set to start, the judge dismissed it.

"We're pleased that the court has dismissed Apple's lawsuit with prejudice," a Google spokeswoman said in an emailed statement.

"Prejudice," in this usage, doesn't mean the New Oxford American Dictionary's "preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience." Rather, it's a quite reasonable legal term based on a judge's actual experience with litigants that means Apple can appeal the decision to the same court, but can't refile it in another – and possibly more friendly – US District Court.

And The Reg confidently predicts that Apple will, indeed, file an appeal in that Wisconsin court. Whether it's filed by the same Cupertinian legal team, or whether those legal beagles will follow iOS headman Scott Forstall out the door, however, reamains to be seen.

According to a post on the Foss Patents blog – which includes a Courtroom Minutes document announcing the decision – Judge Barbara Crabb dismissed the case after a one-hour and 57 minute hearing on Monday morning that was attended by lawyers from Apple and Motorola Mobility.

And so ends the latest phase of Case #3:10-cv-00661-bbc Apple, Inc. v. Motorola, Inc. et al, which began on October 29, 2010 when Apple filed suit against Motorola Mobility for patent infringement, 10 months before Google acquired Motorola Mobility for approximately $12.5bn.

Of that princely sum, Google later reckoned that Motorola Mobility's patent trove was worth a cool $5.5bn. After Judge Crabb's Monday dismissal, that $5.5bn looks a bit better as an investment than it was, say, last week when Apple proposed that it pay no "rate higher than $1 per unit" for the use of Motorola's patents in question.

Crabb's decision should also bring a smile to Googorola chairman Eric Schmidt, who said in an interview last month, "These patent wars are death."

Not that The Reg expects death to come raining down in Cupertino. But we do find ourselves ever more carefully assessing the opinion of Judge Richard Posner, who after throwing out a separate court action between Apple and Motorola Mobility, questioned software patents in general.

"It's a constant struggle for survival," Posner said in an interview with Reuters. "As in any jungle, the animals will use all the means at their disposal, all their teeth and claws that are permitted by the ecosystem."

If you have a hammer, the old saying goes, every problem looks like a nail. And if you have a patent, every move by your competition looks like a lawsuit. ®

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