Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. (MMI) defeated an Apple Inc. “finger swipe” patent-infringement claim when a federal judge in Chicago found that tapping an item on a touch screen wasn’t the same as swiping it.
U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner’s April 27 ruling, posted to the Chicago federal court docket yesterday, resolves in part one of several competing claims scheduled to be tried starting June 11.
His decision addresses Apple’s claim that six applications available on Motorola Mobility-made devices, including those used for browsing photographs, musical album covers and YouTube Inc. videos, infringe its touch-screen finger-tap functionality patent.
“Apple contends that the finger swipe is equivalent to a finger tap because the two gestures are interchangeable,” wrote Posner, who typically presides over appellate cases. “If consumers distinguish between the two, they are not interchangeable.”
The Chicago case is one of several in the U.S. and elsewhere pitting the Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker against Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility, which produces phones that use Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Android operating system.
Google, based in Mountain View, California, is working to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. The company was spun off from Motorola Solutions Inc. (MSI) last year. Google acquired YouTube in 2006.
Posner limited the scope of his ruling for Motorola Mobility on Apple’s claim of patent infringement with respect to an Amazon.com Inc. application that allows readers to access electronic books without using Amazon’s Kindle device.
While the judge held that Motorola Mobility wasn’t liable for infringement caused when users downloaded and installed Amazon’s Kindle reader application on their Motorola devices, he declined to rule in Motorola’s favor for those products sold with the application pre-installed.
In an April 3 ruling, Posner said the companies’ claims will be resolved in as many as four trials, one addressing each competitor’s liability claims then, if necessary, equitable issues and damages.
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