Apple Scores in Patent Fight Against Google and Motorola

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Photo-Illustraion by TIME; Apple

Apple has won a key victory in a closely-watched intellectual property case after a federal judge ruled that Google must turn over information related to its Android mobile operating system and its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola Mobility. The ruling, by U.S. Circuit Judge Richard A. Posner in Chicago, is a blow to Google as it tries to defend Android from Apple’s claims that the search giant copied many of its features from the iPhone.

Since 2010, Apple has been waging a proxy way against Android by targeting Google’s largest hardware partners, particularly Motorola. Before he died, Apple CEO Steve Jobs made the issue a priority for his company, because he was convinced that Google had used Android to rip off Apple’s designs. In a 2010 meeting with Google’s then-CEO Eric Schmidt, Jobs famously dismissed the notion of a $5 billion settlement, according to Walter Isaacson’s 2011 biography of the Apple founder.

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I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple’s $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I’m going to destroy Android, because it’s a stolen product. I’m willing to go thermonuclear war on this.

I don’t want your money. If you offer me $5 billion, I won’t want it. I’ve got plenty of money. I want you to stop using our ideas in Android, that’s all I want.

Since then, Apple has pursued Motorola relentlessly, most recently demanding that Google turn over information related to the company’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility. That move was widely seen as a defensive gambit to bolster Google’s intellectual property position in the face of escalating patent lawsuits from Apple and Microsoft.

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In 2010, Apple sued Motorola Mobility over patents its says relate to “core features of the Android operating system,” including smartphone touch-screens and user interface technology. Motorola has filed a countersuit against the iPhone-maker. Both trials are set to begin later this year.

“The Android/Motorola acquisition discovery is highly relevant to Apple’s claims and defenses,” Apple wrote in a March 2 filing cited by Bloomberg, which first reported Judge Posner’s decision. Apple wants information on the Motorola acquisition so its can demonstrate the high value that Google placed on Motorola features Apple says were copied from the iPhone, according to The Wall Street Journal.

Posner agreed to that request, writing that, “Motorola shall be expected to obtain full and immediate compliance by Google with Apple’s liability discovery demands,” he wrote. He also ordered Google to turn over data related to the development of Android, prior to theMotorola acquisition.

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For its part, Motorola Mobility fought Apple’s attempts to gain information on its acquisition by Google, saying the search giant isn’t party to the lawsuit. “Google’s employees and documents are not within the ‘possession, custody, or control’ of Motorola, and Motorola cannot force Google to produce documents or witnesses over Google’s objections,” the mobile company wrote in court filings.

A spokesperson for Google said the company declined to comment on the case “beyond what’s been said in court papers.”