Back in 2012 the ITC (America's International Trade Council) dismissed Apple's claims that Motorola infringed on a couple of iPhone multi-touch patents, and the Federal Court of Appeals has not only overturned that decision, but pretty much pantsed the ITC for the error. Here's what the court had to say, along with Philip Elmer-DeWitt's plain language summation, from Fortune:
"We are troubled by the ITC's obviousness analysis," the appeals court wrote in a stinging repudiation of the ITC's analysis of the case. "We have repeatedly held that evidence relating to all four Graham factors -- including objective evidence of secondary considerations -- must be considered."
Those secondary considerations are the ones that anybody with eyes who has shopped for a mobile phone in the past six years can't miss seeing. Namely that Apple succeeded in building a commercially successful touchscreen smartphone where others had failed, and that once the iPhone proved its worth, competitors around the world rushed into the marketplace with devices that looked an awful lot like Apple's
This follows last week's reversal of another ITC decision by the Obama administration, namely the imminent ban on older iPhones and iPads based solely on Samsung's abuse of FRAND patents.
I'm as bored of patent stories as the next blogger, but an executive and now judicial reversal of the ITC - twice in as many weeks - where the difference between proprietary and standards-essential patents are clearly understood by everyone but the ITC - that's interesting. And as Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents points out, it might only be the beginning:
Should Apple prevail on remand, which is anyting but unlikely (though not a given since the Federal Circuit ruling still gives the ITC some wiggle room in the further proceedings), this could be strategically more important than last year's jury verdict in the Samsung case. Injunctions are more important than damages, and these patents are more fundamental than the ones asserted at the California trial a year ago.
That jury verdict netted Apple over $1 billion in damages. I don't think most of us care about giant companies trading what's, for them, small amounts of money in the who-copied-who smartphone finger pointing game. We do, however, have an innate sense of fairness, and while there's a case to made that all patents are problematic, the abuse of standards-essential patents in particular, is particularly onerous.
Maybe onerous enough to start changing the system?