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Apple says patent troll should 'stop digging' in appeal to Supreme Court

Apple has asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss a petition by the Straight Path IP Group claiming the Federal Circuit wrongly upheld a lower court's ruling in a patent infringement lawsuit without an explanation, with Apple claiming the petition challenges a common court action, and that SPIP should 'stop digging.'

In 2016, Straight Path IP Group sued Apple in a renewed complaint over allegations the iPhone maker infringed four patents relating to realtime video conferencing and audio conferencing that affects FaceTime, as well as point-to-point communications between devices. The four patents in question survived re-examination by the Patent Trial and Appeals Board after facing challenges to their validity, giving some weight to their validity.

The lawsuit was effectively shut down at the stage of the district court level, with a ruling that the patents were not infringed. SPIP appealed to the Federal Circuit but failed to successfully convince the court, however the appeal's ruling prompted SPIP to petition the Supreme Court over how the ruling took place.

SPIP questioned one of the Federal Circuit's Rules of Procedure, specifically whether Rule 36(e) "violates the Fifth Amendment by authorizing panels of the Federal Circuit to affirm, with no explanation whatsover, a District Court judgment resolving only issues of law." In the appeal in question, the Federal Circuit Panel issued a ruling of "Affirmed" and referenced the ruling in a single-line decision.

SPIP petitioned the Court on August 23, but while Apple and Cisco, the two defending parties involved in the case, waived their right to respond in early September, the Court instead requested both companies file responses by October 18.

In Apple's response, it introduces the text by advising "The First Law of Holes states: 'when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging," and that since SPIP faces possible sanctions for a "frivolous lawsuit," SPIP is "still digging" by demanding a review of "an oft-denied, splitless question, unrelated to the dubious merits of its case, that would upend the practices of every Circuit and over a century of this Court's precedents."

After failing to convince the District Court over the matter, as well as seeing similar results on appeal, Apple notes "Rather than putting away its shovel, Straight Path now asks this Court to grant certiorari - not on the merits of its infringement claim, but on the very practice of issuing summary affirmances under Rule 36."

The request is "indistinguishable from a dozen other petitions" that the court has previously denied certiorari, Apple argues. "It should meet the same fate."

SPIP's query presents "no conflict on a question of federal law," nor does it "raise any substantial federal question," as well as being "singularly unimportant" to the judicial system.

"The precise content of a summary affirmance order makes no practical difference to litigants or to the courts," writes Apple. "And if there were a case to review the question, this is not that case, given that Straight Path's suit is obviously, and perhaps sanctionably, meritless."

A filing to the Supreme Court was also made by Cisco, saying essentially the same thing, but with less colorful language.