Google’s Motorola Drops ITC Patent Infringement Complaint Against Apple

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By Yannick LeJacq | October 3, 2012 7:22 AM EST

Google Inc.’s (Nasdaq: GOOG) Motorola Unit suddenly and unexpectedly withdrew a complaint the search engine giant had recently leveled against Apple Inc. (Nasdaq: AAPL) with the International Trade Commission (ITC).

Originally filed in mid-August, Google’s complaint accused its major tech industry rival of infringing on seven Motorola patents for everything from smartphones to tablets and laptops. Running almost the entire gamut of Apple’s current product line-up (preceding the company’s new products revealed on Sept. 12), the complaint asked the ITC to ban U.S. imports of all current and recent iPhone, iPad and Mac Computer models.

Details about Google’s motivation or any negotiations or settlement with Apple remain unclear, although Motorola notes in the filing that the decision to “terminate all claims in this investigation without prejudice” was not a result of any "agreements between Motorola and Apple, written or oral, express or implied, concerning the subject matter of this investigation."

Just last month, Apple won an important legal victory against another of its chief smartphone rivals, Samsung Electronics Co. (LON: BC94), over a similar international patent dispute concerning the design and software behind the two companies’ mobile devices. That, coupled with Google’s recent success that culminated in Monday’s victory over Microsoft Corp. (Nasdaq: MSFT) at the stock market has led some analysts to wonder if the company simply decided to step away from this particular fight.

The tech blog FOSS Patents wrote upon hearing the news that the patent case was reassigned to Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex, a judge who apparently did not have the best reputation for helping companies in Google’s position.

“Judge Essex was also in charge of the investigation of Microsoft's ITC complaint against Motorola and of some other recent cases,” intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller wrote. “In my observation, he doesn't make things easy for complainants. Maybe it's not just a coincidence that Motorola withdrew its complaint shortly after his appointment.”

According to Bloomberg, another case is still pending at the Washington trade agency, which has the power to block imports of products that infringe U.S. patents. The commission already cleared Apple of three of its infringement charges on August 24, but gave the decision over a fourth patent to the judge involved in that case.

Google share prices dropped slightly on Tuesday, closing at $756.99. 

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