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Friday, June 22, 2012, 06:45 pm PT (09:45 pm ET)

Apple's patent case against Motorola dismissed 'with prejudice'

A U.S. court judge on Friday dismissed Apple's smartphone patent claims against Motorola after holding a rehearing on Wednesday, possibly putting an end to the nearly two-year conflict.

Judge Richard Posner sitting by designation on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois dismissed Apple's patent suit against Motorola "with prejudice," meaning that the assertions can't be reargued in front of that particular court, after giving the iPhone maker a second chance at an injunction earlier this week.

The judge, who has been an outspoken critic of Apple's court tactics, temporarily canceled Apple's trial in early June citing lack of injury but decided to rehear the case two weeks later. During the second hearing Apple once again argued for injunctive relief against Motorola's alleged infringement on four patents regarding heuristics, UI elements and wireless technology. The court was unimpressed with both the assertions as well as Apple's injunction request that asked the Droid maker to switch to its own solution within three months.

According to court documents, Judge Posner recommended that Apple license the technology to Motorola instead seeking an injunction which would be "catastrophic" and harmful to consumers. He also noted that merely issuing an injunction wouldn't necessarily stop Apple from reasserting the same claims when Motorola switched to another solution three months later.

On Apple's claims that it had been harmed by Motorola's actions, Judge Posner said that the Cupertino-based company was attempting to leverage precedent set in a 2010 court case involving Microsoft. The presiding judge in that case stated that “a small company was practicing its patent, onlyto suffer a loss of market share, brand recognition, and customergoodwill as the result of the defendant’s infringing acts. Suchlosses may frequently defy attempts at valuation, particularlywhen the infringing acts significantly change the relevant mar-ket, as occurred here.” To this Judge Posner said, "Apple is not a “small company”; its market capitalization exceeds that of Google and Microsoft combined. To suggest that it has suffered loss of market share, brand recognition, or customer goodwill as a result of Motorola’s alleged infringement of the patent claims still in play in this caseis wild conjecture."



Judge Posner said that the only reasonable outcome to the case is dismissal, both of Apple's and Motorola's claims, arguing that the case should not be considered moot as the dismissal itself can be appealed. He explains that "even if no appeal were planned, the case would not be moot, because a failure of proof, whether with respect to liability or to remedy, while itends a case does not make the case moot. A dismissal for moot-ness ordinarily (though with exceptions, for example because of voluntary cessation by the defendant of his alleged misconduct, or because the case is capable of repetition but evades review) is without prejudice."

"It would be ridiculous to dismiss a suit for failure to prove damages and allow the plaintiff to refile the suit so that he could have a second chance to prove damages," Judge Posner said. "This case is therefore dismissed with prejudice; a separate order to that effect is being entered today."

The ruling wraps up at least one chapter of the Apple v. Motorola saga that began when the Droid maker filed a complaint with the ITC in 2010 only to be hit shortly after with the Apple countersuit dismissed today. Both parties have the option to appeal the dismissal to a higher court but no official plans to do so have been announced.