By Dan Levine
(Reuters) - A U.S. judge has agreed to hear Apple's request for an injunction against the sale of some Motorola phones, giving the iPhone maker a chance to head off a damaging ruling in the smartphone patent wars.
Last week Judge Richard Posner in Chicago canceled a trial between Google Inc's Motorola Mobility unit and Apple Inc, saying in a tentative ruling that neither could prove damages. But in an order on Wednesday, Posner decided to let attorneys plead their case on an injunction before he makes a final decision.
Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet declined to comment, while Google representatives did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Motorola sued Apple in October 2010, a move that was widely seen as a preemptive strike against an imminent Apple lawsuit. Apple filed its own claims against Motorola the same month.
Posner issued a series of pretrial rulings that eliminated nearly all of Motorola's patent claims against Apple from the prospective trial, while maintaining more of Apple's claims against Motorola. That meant Apple had more to gain in the trial, which had been set to start on Monday.
Apple had sought an injunction barring the sale of Motorola products, but in last week's ruling cancelling the trial, Posner said an injunction would be "contrary to the public interest." One legal observer has said Posner's decision had a good chance of getting overturned on appeal, in part because the judge had rejected Apple's request for a hearing.
Posner set the injunction hearing for June 20 in Chicago. Motorola may also ask for an injunction on the one patent in the case that it can still assert against Apple.
The case in U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois, is Apple Inc and NeXT Software Inc vs. Motorola Inc and Motorola Mobility Inc, 11-cv-8540.
(Reporting by Dan Levine in San Francisco; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)