Google-owned Motorola Mobility drops Apple infringement complaint

In a rather unexpected move, Google-owned Motorola Mobility has withdrawn a patent-related complaint it launched against Apple with the US International Trade Commission in August.

According to Florian Mueller of the Foss Patents blog, the complaint revolved around Apple’s alleged infringement of seven non-essential standards patents held by Motorola and used in the technology such as multimedia, messaging, and voice activation.

The ITC said two weeks ago that it would begin investigating Motorola’s allegations, but in a filing on Monday, Google said it had decided to “terminate all claims” in the case. The company has not offered any specific explanation for the decision, saying only, “As we have said many times before, we will continue to vigorously defend our partners.”

“There are no agreements between Motorola and Apple, written or oral, express or implied, concerning the subject matter of this investigation,” the filing said, nixing reports that Apple and Google executives had reached an out-of-court settlement.

Google’s motivations are unclear, but the search giant may have chosen to drop the case because of a concern it would prove to be unsuccessful in court, said patent expert Florian Mueller.

“This could still be a unilateral goodwill gesture on Google’s part toward Apple if high-level settlement talks are progressing well,” wrote Mueller.

“For now I think it’s more likely than not that Google identified some reasons for which this complaint was unlikely to succeed at the ITC and that its overall fight with Apple is continuing as usual,” said Mueller, adding that the appointment of a judge with a tough reputation may have been a factor in the decision to drop the complaint.

Meanwhile, the global patent war continues to ramp up, with Samsung adding the iPhone 5 to its list of patent-infringing devices earlier this week.