updated 08:12 pm EDT, Tue September 11, 2012
Witness claims not being qualified to answer questions
Apple is seeking US International Trade Commission court sanctions against HTC based on the testimony of one of its expert witnesses. HTC's witness Michael J. Geile repeatedly deferred to HTC's lawyers when pressed about his "inventions" with parent company ADC Telecommunications and is essentially saying nothing of substance to the judge when questioned, despite his obligation to do so before the court.
A letter from Apple to Administrative Law Judge Thomas Pender quoted Geile repeatedly. In one case, Geile said "I don't think I'm qualified to say that – what the invention was in this." When pressed, he stated that "I'm saying that the attorneys will interpret whether there is [an invention] or not, that I'm not qualified to interpret that."
According to patent analyst Florian Mueller, Geile is saying with his refusals to answer that "he has no idea why he signed a patent application in the first place" and Geile "basically refuses to say anything substantive at all."
Apple, in its statement declared that "Mr. Geile's refusal to testify as to the subject matter of his claimed invention necessarily precludes him from testifying about any conception of said invention" and requests that "an adverse inference be drawn against HTC with regard to conception and reduction to practice." Apple is arguing that HTC's patents are invalid, and failing that, that HTC's patents-in-suit are standards-essential, and as such, subject to fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms.
Supporting Apple's position is an ITC ruling in which an inventor's refusal to testify about his patented invention was declared to be a "pattern of discovery abuse" that was essentially "obstruction of important and significant discovery."
HTC and Apple have been dueling in court since Apple launched a patent infringement suit against the company in early 2010. HTC has been forced to borrow patents from others or claim Apple is infringing patents that are in fact standards-essential in order to mount counter-claims. The failed strategy has caused HTC and others being investigated in both the US and Europe for abusing FRAND-eligible patents.