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Judge scolds Apple, Motorola for using court as 'business strategy'

Fed up with 'obstreperous and cantankerous conduct'

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The judge responsible for the painfully complex patent litigation between Apple and Motorola Mobility has had it up to here with the legal machinations of the two companies, and has denied a request to step in and whittle the case down to a manageable size.

"Most parties that come before the Court are trying to resolve their legal dispute as expeditiously, efficiently, and fairly as possible so that they can get on with their business or personal lives," wrote judge Robert Scola, Jr. of the US District Court for the Southern District of Florida in his Tuesday ruling.

"But in the present case," he continued, "the parties' obstreperous and cantankerous conduct ... makes it plain that the parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end. That is not a proper use of this court."

At issue is litigation that now involves over 180 claims asserted from 12 patents – a "greatly expanded" scope from the original suit, filed in January 2012. "Without a hint of irony," Scola wrote, "the parties now ask the Court to mop up the mess they made by holding a hearing to reduce the size and complexity of the case. The Court declines the invitation."

Rather than step in and host a case-management conference to streamline the case, Scola has instead granted plaintiff Motorola and defendant Apple their request for more time to prepare for a Markman process, in which the litigants will narrow the case themselves.

"Since that puts the onus where it belongs," Scola wrote, "that is what the Court will do."

The Markman hearing will be held on September 20, 2013. Does any Reg reader want to bet that Apple and Motorola will not be able to narrow the scope of the case by that date, and that the litigation will drag on further?

After all, if Scola's analysis is correct, this lawsuit is a "business strategy that has no end," and not a good-faith search for clarity. ®

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