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Google, Intellectual Ventures case over patents ends in U.S. mistrial

A neon Google logo is seen as employees work at the new Google office in Toronto, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch
A neon Google logo is seen as employees work at the new Google office in Toronto, November 13, 2012. REUTERS/Mark Blinch

By Dan Levine

(Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Wednesday declared a mistrial in a lawsuit brought by private patent owner Intellectual Ventures against Google Inc's Motorola Mobility unit after jurors could not unanimously agree, according to an Intellectual Ventures statement.

The trial between Intellectual Ventures and Motorola in Delaware federal court was the first for IV since it was founded 14 years ago and pitted two adversaries in the current national debate over patent reform. It involved three patents covering a variety of smartphone-related technologies, including Google Play.

U.S. District Judge Sue Robinson in Wilmington, Delaware declared the mistrial on Wednesday, nearly two weeks after the trial began and one day after the jury began deliberating.

"Mistrials are an occasional fact of life, and it is disappointing," said Melissa Finocchio, chief litigation counsel for Intellectual Ventures. IV is looking forward to a retrial, she said.

Motorola maintained its opposition. "We continue to believe this lawsuit was based on overbroad patent claims meant to tax innovation," Motorola said in a statement.

Google, which acquired Motorola in 2012, is backing attempts to curb software patents and make it easier to fight lawsuits. IV has warned that Congress should not act too rashly to weaken patent owners' rights.

Google recently announced that it would sell its Motorola handset business to Lenovo but that it would keep the vast majority of Motorola's patents. A Google spokesman declined to comment on how Motorola's patent liabilities would be impacted by the sale.

Privately held Intellectual Ventures and other patent buyers have been accused by some in the technology industry of burdening innovation by using the patents they buy to pursue lawsuits instead of building products.

IV argues that unlike some of the firms denounced as "patent trolls" it invests only in quality intellectual property and does not file frivolous lawsuits. The multi-billion dollar patent firm has other lawsuits in pre-trial stages and has agreed to settlements for other, separate claims, but the Motorola lawsuit is the first case it has taken to trial since IV was founded 14 years ago.

IV has raised about $6 billion from investors and has bought tens of thousands of intellectual property assets from a variety of sources. Google was an investor in IV's first patent acquisition fund but did not join later vehicles.

The case in U.S. District Court, District of Delaware is Intellectual Ventures I and Intellectual Ventures II vs. Motorola Mobility, 11-908.

(Reporting by Dan Levine. Editing by Andre Grenon and Cynthia Osterman)

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