Which jurisdiction, Eastern Texas or Northern California, will oversee Apple’s proxy patent war with Google? Both of them, according to a new order from U.S. District Judge Rodney Gilstrap in Marshall, Texas, who refused to cede the litigation to another judge in San Francisco.
Rockstar Consortium, a patent holder backed by Apple Inc. and other tech companies, paid a staggering $4.5 billion in 2011 to acquire a patent portfolio from bankrupt Nortel Networks. In October 2013, Rockstar asserted the former Nortel patents in Texas against phone makers that use Google’s Android operating system, including Samsung Electronics Co. and HTC Corp. Google Inc. responded with a declaratory judgment suit in San Francisco, seeking a ruling that it doesn’t infringe Rockstar’s patents.
In a decision issued on Tuesday, Gilstrap denied Google’s request to stay the original batch of Texas cases against its partners or transfer them to Northern California. Google argued that a stay or transfer would promote judicial efficiency, since the question of whether it infringes Rockstar’s patents is being litigated in the California action. But Gilstrap rejected that efficiency argument, ruling that “major issues in this case and other pending cases will likely remain even after the California litigation is resolved.”
According to Tuesday’s order, the Texas case hinges partly on a key question in the companies’ patent fight: To what extent do Samsung, HTC and other Google partners modify Android for their own particular purposes? “It is by no means clear that resolving infringement issues as to Android proper will resolve issues relating to other manufacturers’ various implementations of the Android system,” he wrote.
Much like Google tried to short-circuit the Texas cases, Rockstar sought to transfer Google’s defensive action from California to Texas. U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken in San Francisco rejected that request in April. She dug in her feet at a hearing on June 26, according to Law360, despite arguments by Rockstar counsel Theodore Stevenson III of McKool Smith that the cases could lead to inconsistent rulings.
Google is represented by attorneys at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, including Matthew Warren, Charles Verhoeven, and Amy Candido.
Warren didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. We also didn’t hear back from Rockstar counsel Stevenson.