(CN) – Apple cannot use a countersuit against Motorola to also take fire at a Taiwanese competitor that uses a similar operating system in its smartphones, a federal judge ruled.
The dispute took shape when Motorola sued Apple for patent infringement in the Southern District of Florida in January. Within two months, Apple had used its counterclaims to sue the Taiwan-based HTC Corp. and its American subsidiaries.
Apple alleged that both Motorola and HTC infringed its patents for the Android platform and related applications for use on mobile devices.
Though HTC and Motorola each argued that they buy and customize the Android system for use in their respective smartphones, Apple claimed that Android’s applications are preprogrammed and may be used on a wide range of devices.
Apple previously filed four lawsuits against HTC in Delaware, claiming that HTC’s smartphones infringed 26 Apple patents. HTC countersued Apple in the same district in September 2011.
In the Miami lawsuit, HTC asked the court to sever it from Apple’s claims against Motorola and transfer the action to Delaware. HTC argued that both cases involve related patents and should be litigated in the same district.
Finding that HTC and Motorola make different products that were not related in any way, U.S. District Judge Robert Scola Jr. agreed last week that Apple has no basis for pursuing joint claims.
HTC and Motorola are competitors, not collaborators, in the smartphone market, and both buy or license Android from third parties, the 12-page ruling states.
Apple’s unsuccessful attempt at tying HTC to Motorola rested on their respective memberships in the Open Handset Alliance, an industry association of 84 companies that promote products using the Android platform.
Scola rejected claims that these memberships could prove that HTC and Motorola had designed or developed their “accused products” together.
The two companies’ products, which use modified software and customized applications, are not similar enough to support joinder actions under the 2011 America Invents Act, according to the ruling.
“HTC and Motorola are competitors in the smartphone industry and produce different smartphones that run on at least somewhat modified Android software,” Scola wrote. “The mere use of the Android platform by these competitors, and the mere allegation that the same or similar patents were infringed, does not satisfy the joinder standards of the AIA.”
Scola also agreed to transfer the claims against HTC to Delaware, finding that one forum would benefit both parties.
Transferring the lawsuit would be more efficient, and possibly more convenient for witnesses.
What’s more, the Cupertino, Calif.-based Apple does not have home ties to Florida, and none of its claims against HTC arise there, the judge added.