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Originally published Monday, November 5, 2012 at 8:01 PM

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Judge tosses Apple lawsuit

Apple had claimed Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility wanted unreasonably high license fees for the use of patents on wireless technology.

Bloomberg News

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Apple’s breach-of-contract claims against Google’s Motorola Mobility unit were dismissed after a judge questioned why a trial should be held if it wouldn’t resolve the licensing battle between the two.

U.S. District Judge Barbara Crabb canceled a trial that had been scheduled to begin Monday in Madison, Wis.

She had planned to establish a royalty rate on Motorola Mobility’s patents that relate to industry standards. Apple said it wouldn’t take a license to the patents unless the judge set the rate at $1 or less for each iPhone.

“There seems to be a bit of frustration,” said David Long, a patent lawyer in Washington, D.C., who has been following the case. “Generally, courts are not inclined to give advisory opinions. The Constitution doesn’t allow it and courts have a lot of other things to do.”

This was the first of two cases, 2,000 miles apart, in which judges were to hear complaints from Apple and Microsoft that Motorola Mobility is demanding excessive royalties on patents deemed essential to standards for how electronic devices function.

Regulators in the U.S. and Europe are investigating whether Motorola Mobility is misusing those patents to curb competition in the $219 billion smartphone market.

The cases were to be the first in which courts were asked to define licensing obligations of patent owners who help create technological specifications.

Now the focus will turn to the trial involving Microsoft, scheduled to start next Tuesday in Seattle, said Jorge Contreras, an associate law professor at American University in Washington, D.C.

The nonjury trial is before U.S. District Judge James Robart, who has said he will set a range for what is the appropriate rate, so a jury could later decide if Motorola Mobility’s offer was fair.

Apple and Microsoft raised the breach-of-contract claims in federal court in response to licensing demands and patent-infringement cases Motorola Mobility filed at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which could ban imports of Apple’s iPhone and Microsoft’s Xbox video-gaming system.

An ITC judge is considering whether Microsoft violated two patents for video decoding and a nonessential patent for a way to establish communication between the Xbox and accessories.

The agency in August said Apple didn’t infringe Motorola Mobility patents for standard wireless technology.

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