Why is Motorola Backing Off Apple?

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Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Motorola Mobility unit withdrew its patent-infringement complaint against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) with the U.S. International Trade Commission on Tuesday without offering any reason. Motorola insisted there had been no agreement between the two companies and said it reserved the right to re-file the claims. A notice of dismissal also was filed in a complementary civil lawsuit filed in a federal court in Wilmington, Delaware.

The case, which Motorola filed in August, alleged that Apple infringed seven of its patents related to, among others, interactive voice commands, location reminders, e-mail notifications, and video streaming.

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Apple and Motorola have been involved in several smartphone patent-related cases against each other since critical licensing talks between the two broke down in 2010. Bloomberg said none of the other pending cases between the two appeared to have received a request for dismissal.

According to Foss Patents’ Florian Mueller, Motorola may have withdrawn its complaint after Theodore Essex, who has a reputation for setting a high bar for complaints, was appointed as ruling judge in the case. “Maybe it’s not just a coincidence that Motorola withdrew its complaint shortly after his appointment,” Mueller wrote. Mueller also speculated that Motorola may be having problems tracking down pertinent documents and may have realized that it was too hasty with its initial complaint.

Next month, a non-jury federal court in Madison, Wisconsin, will begin trial in a case filed by Apple that alleges Motorola violated obligations to license some of its patents on fair terms. In December, ITC judge Thomas Pender is scheduled to rule on whether Apple violates a Motorola patent for a sensor to protect against accidental call drops. The agency cleared the iPhone maker in additional charges in the same case.

Motorola Mobility was bought by Google in May, reportedly largely for its intellectual property portfolio.

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