Apple and Google's Motorola Mobility unit are more interested in using litigation as a business strategy than in resolving disputes over the use of patented technology, says a US federal judge.
"The parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end," US District Judge Robert Scola in Miami said in an order dated yesterday. "That is not a proper use of this court."
The handset makers have accused each other of infringing patents related to wireless technology and the case has grown with additional patents since first filed in 2010. It's part of a global battle for market share as Apple challenges what it considers copycats of its iPhone that run on Google's Android operating system.
The case in Florida involves more than 180 claims related to 12 patents and disputes over the meaning of more than 100 terms, Scola said in his order. Cupertino, California-based Apple and Mountain View, California-based Google were unable to streamline the case, he said, calling the companies' actions "obstreperous and cantankerous conduct."
"Without a hint of irony, the parties now ask the court to mop up a mess they made by holding a hearing to reduce the size and complexity of the case," he wrote. "The court declines this invitation."
He gave them four months to narrow the case's scope. If they don't, he said, he will put the case on hold until he resolves all of the disputes over the definition of patent terms.
Matt Kallman, a spokesman for Google, declined to comment. Amy Bessette, a spokeswoman for Apple, didn't immediately respond to requests for comment.
Other judges have complained about the hard-nosed legal fighting between the two. A federal judge in Wisconsin last year threw out breach-of-contract claims brought against Motorola Mobility. US District Judge Barbara Crabb had planned to set a royalty rate on certain Motorola Mobility patents until Apple said it would agree to take a license only if the judge set the rate at $US1 or less for each iPhone.
In November, Apple and Google said in a filing to Crabb that they were talking about a way to resolve part of their dispute over patents related to critical smartphone technology. The hold up, they said, was that they couldn't agree on how the arbitration would work.
Apple is appealing Crabb's decision to dismiss the contract case. Both companies are seeking to revive other patent-infringement claims that were tossed by a federal judge in Chicago.
Apple also is trying to revive claims it filed against Motorola Mobility at the US International Trade Commission in Washington, while fighting off a case against it at the agency.