Digital Legal

Google’s Motorola wins patent injunctions against Apple in Germany

By | Published on Monday 6 February 2012


An ongoing legal squabble between Apple and Motorola over patents went before a German court last week, such disputes being all the more interesting now Motorola is, in essence, a division of Google, it having bought the mobile maker last summer. As previously reported, the two giants of the digital world, previously friendly rivals, have become increasingly hostile since they started to compete head to head in the mobile operating system market place.

Not that tech companies ever need many motivating factors to engage the services of patent lawyers. There were actually two separate Apple/Motorola patent disputes in the spotlight in Germany last week, with the latter winning in both. The first related to aspects of Apple’s iPhone and iPad, the latter to the “email push” element of the IT company’s iCloud digital locker service, and its predecessor MobileMe, with pushes emails to a user’s device without it having to first call the mail server.

It’s a confusing case, though Apple seems to accept it is using some of Motorola’s patented technology on its mobile and tablet devices (though on the “email push” point they claimed their rival’s patent was “invalid), but the firm argues that these are industry standard technologies so its rival has a duty to provide patent licences at a fair and reasonable rate, which, Apple’s lawyers argue, it has failed to do. For its part Motorola said Apple had refused to “negotiate in good faith” regarding the use of its patented technology.

For a brief time the impact of the first of last week’s court rulings in Motorola’s favour was tangibly seen when certain Apple devices disappeared from the IT giant’s online store in Germany, though they subsequently reappeared. It seems that Apple successfully halted the injunction awarded to its rival pending an appeal of the German judge’s ruling, though Motorola could well now return to court in the next few weeks and request the injunction be actioned with immediate affect. Or something like that.

The second ruling may mean that Apple will have to alter the email delivery element of its iCloud service in Germany, having the device request messages every few minutes rather than pushing new content as and when it appears. Though the iPhone maker won’t have to act until Motorola actually enforces that particular injunction, which would apparently require the mobile maker to first post a bond of 100 million euros for complicated patent law reasons.

So, fun times in the patent lobby. Makes copyright law seem frankly straight forward by comparison, doesn’t it?