updated 03:42 pm EDT, Fri August 17, 2012
Move ensures delay in resolution of patent issues
Late last month, HTC score a small but important tactical win over Apple in a case brought by the iPad maker over infringement claims on six Apple patents when the judge there moved to separate the HTC case from a similar Motorola lawsuit and granted HTC's request to move the trial to Delaware. Today, a court in Eastern Virginia hearing a separate counterclaim from Apple regarding the FRAND status of two HTC patents was also moved to Delaware, resulting in a delay in both cases.
Apple has had difficulty getting its claims heard in Delaware, where the US District Court there has thus far stayed all of Apple's claims against HTC until a separate ITC investigation into the validity of some patents is complete. That investigation has been ongoing for over a year, and HTC may be hoping to persuade the court to stay the two additional cases now sent it from Miami and Eastern Virginia, respectively.
Apple also lost a motion add additional infringement claims over four other patents, and it's legal team's habit of first being for, and then against, resolving disputes in the Delaware court has already gotten it into trouble with the judges there. The East Virginia case began with HTC's second ITC case against Apple last year, to which Apple filed counterclaims of FRAND abuse with the East Virginia district court.
Apple says that HTC (and its subsidiary ADC, which owns the patents) are using standards-essential, FRAND-eligible patents as legal weapons to try and "extort a license from Apple" without disclosing that HTC was abusing its FRAND commitments. HTC has moved to dismiss or stay Apple's complaint, and with the move to Delaware the matter will not likely not even be considered for some time, and has a good chance of being stayed until the ITC investigation is complete.
In response, Apple is now trying to get the two HTC patents it got from ADC thrown out of the ITC investigation, an area where Apple has had much greater success -- having already gotten numerous Google and HTC patents tossed out of various other cases. Should Apple's motion be granted, Apple would move to have the entire ITC complaint tossed for lack of standing, which would allow the other Delaware cases to proceed (and be a large feather in the cap of Apple's argument that both Motorola and HTC among others are engaged in systematic abuse of FRAND agreements and obligations).
Even if the company can't get the ADC patents thrown out, notes patent analyst Florian Mueller, the ITC case will eventually be decided and the Delaware district court lawsuits will be allowed to proceed as normal -- it will all just happen more slowly than Apple would like. Officials from HTC and Apple have been ordered to attend settlement talks that will be mediated by another judge at the end of this month. [via Florian Mueller]