Judges are getting fed up with patent lawsuits

We need more judges like U.S. Circuit Court Judge Richard Posner.

Yesterday, Posner scrapped a trial between Apple and Google’s Motorola Mobility slated to start in Chicago next week after he rejected the arguments for damages because neither side was able to prove it was harmed.

The move is a welcome breath of practicality in this increasingly muddled and litigious world of technology patent warfare. Beyond competing in the market, technology players have moved to the courtroom as a second front, using patents to distract competitors and even ban products from coming into the country.

While these companies see some strategic or monetary gain to be had by this, virtually everyone else loses…So it’s refreshing that more judges are taking action to throw out cases, streamline the lawsuits, and even order both sides to hash out their differences. I applaud the move and can only hope this is the beginning of a trend.

“Judge Posner has repeatedly urged the parties to ‘winnow’ the case and did most of the winnowing himself by throwing out claim and claim, argument after argument,” said Florian Mueller, who runs legal blog Foss Patents and is a consultant who has done work for companies such as Microsoft and Oracle.

He’s not the only one. In Germany, Judge Andreas Voss of the Mannheim Regional Court has thrown out two lawsuits between Apple and Samsung Electronics. Samsung said it would appeal the decision.

U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh, based in California, ordered the CEOs of Apple and Samsung to meet face to face and work out a deal. Even if it was ultimately fruitless, you have to respect her attempt to settle such a complicated mess. She also ordered the companies to reduce the size of the case to make it more manageable for a jury to decide. Apple and Samsung each dropped a number of patent complaints as a result of the order…

While Posner’s decision scrapped the planned jury trial, the lawsuit will continue to move forward as the companies seek to obtain an injunction on the other’s products…That’s why it’s important that judges remain aggressive in their willingness to throw out extraneous complaints.

I understand the tactic. Especially in light of the US Patent Office and their peers around the world. They have become useless carbon copy grantors of anything that rolls in the door – regardless of duplication or value.

But, the lawsuits are becoming as frivolous as people who sue because they can’t figure out how to use their smartphone.

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