A federal judge yesterday threw out Apple's lawsuit against Motorola Mobility, in which it claimed that Motorola was trying to charge too much for patent licenses.
The patents concerned were acquired by Google when it took over Motorola Mobility in May in a $12.5 billion deal.
The takeover was approved by the European Commission and US Department of Justice only on the condition that Motorola made its patents available to rivals on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
However, Motorola asked Apple for 2.25 percent of the price of the products that included its patented technology. Apple claimed this was unreasonable, and instead offered $1 per device, launching a lawsuit when this sum was rejected.
In response, Apple made it clear that it wouldn't consider itself bound by any ruling that ordered it to pay more than $1 per device - and this led Western District of Wisconsin district judge Barbara B Crabb to question whether she had the legal authority to issue advice alone.
Yesterday, she dismissed the case, saying she believed Apple's interest in a license was 'qualified'.
"I think Apple missed an opportunity to make important headway against Motorola Mobility. I don't know Judge Crabb and I didn't attend any of the hearings, but I read her orders and I really thought she was very solution-oriented. In fact, I thought she would have been a great judge to preside over a FRAND rate-setting trial - a judge that I think an implementer of FRAND standards could really have trusted to arrive at a fair decision," says patent expert Florian Mueller.
"As long as she considered Apple to be genuinely interested in a solution, as opposed to protracted litigation, she was definitely willing to help put an end to Motorola's wireless [standards-essential patent] SEP assertions against Apple. But when she started to doubt Apple's intentions, the case fell apart."
A trial over similar issues between Motorola Mobility and Microsoft is set to start next week in Washington, but is unlikely ot be derailed in the same way, says Mueller.
"Microsoft really wants to put Motorola's SEP assertions against it to rest, while Apple apparently didn't believe that it needed a near-term solution," he says.
"The Seattle trial will take place unless there's a settlement. There won't be a dismissal there."