When Apple launched its mission “to go thermonuclear war on Android”, the company probably did not expect that some verdicts will strike close to home.
Due to Court in Manheim siding with Motorola on FRAND-pledged patents, starting today, Apple Deutschland GmbH was forced to remove all infringing devices from its online store. The patents cover all devices which used Infineon/Intel baseband chip:
- All iPhone 3G phones
- All iPhone 3Gs phones
- All iPad 3G tablets
- All iPad 2 3G tablets
Apple was officially quoted that the removal of dozen or so devices was a consequence of an injunction that Motorola Mobility won in Mannheim court. The lawsuit was covering the FRAND patents from Motorola’s 17,000 patent heavy treasure chest, which were not paid or licensed by Infineon/Intel nor Apple. Apple’s iPhone 4S was excluded from the injunction because it uses the Qualcomm baseband chip. As we all know, Qualcomm is a licensee of Motorola Mobility and vice versa.
However, patent analyst Florian Mueller said that the injunction is not related solely to today’s verdict but rather a verdict which German court passed in December. Earlier this week, Motorola Mobility paid 100 million EUR to get the injunction enforced across Germany.
Furthermore, the company is also seeking an injunction on Apple Inc., which runs retail and distribution sales for the company, i.e. Apple stores and distribution. Should the court grant that injunction as well, you won’t be able to purchase a SIM-enabled iDevice in Apple Stores nor other stores in Germany. While this is not such an issue with the open borders, you will have to circumvent the German customs, thus online purchase from other countries will not be possible – only buying the physical device and carrying it over to Germany will do. This will not hit the iPhone 4S, but customers wanting to buy an iPad 2 3G are out of luck.
Motorola won a permanent injunction against the iCloud and MobileMe services. Germans using the iDevices won’t be able to receive push email such as one on Android, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Phone devices, but they will have to check for new emails manually. This injunction was enforced after HTC lost the case against Apple in terms of software feature which enabled user to call, email or text from the same contact in his contact list. As we well know, two patents on that technology are owned by Nokia and Apple, with Apple being a licensee of Nokia.
All in all, this patent war brings casualties, which are the customers. Germany was affected when Samsung was banned from selling several Galaxy Tab tablets (7.7, 8.9, 10.1) and now you won’t be able to purchase a connected iDevice.
Remember that Apple’s legal department is run by Bruce Sewell, who received open doors to go after everyone. The only problem is that when Bruce was running Intel patent battles, the company had to pay billions of dollars to AMD and NVIDIA, as well as settle with FTC and pay the biggest anti-monopoly fine to the European Union in tune of 1.1 billion Euro.
While Apple has almost 100 billion dollars in the bank, the legal battle is bound to slow the innovation cycle down, and the company will have to be much more careful in order to infringe on other company’s patents.
Patent wars drove giants of computing into Chapter 11 and Chapter 7 back in 1990s, and we believe it would be the very best for the consumer to either have a complete overhaul of the patent system, which is flawed beyond belief (Apple was allowed to patent a concept known for several hundred years, i.e. slide to unlock.), or to come to terms and sign cross-licensing deals and start innovating again. Intel lost four valuable years in its legal battle with NVIDIA and even more with AMD anti-trust lawsuit and we all remember cancelation of Larrabee project, the flawed Sandy Bridge chipset and its billion dollar recall, as well as missing the roadmaps and disabling chipset features because they were unstable.
Update February 9, 2012 at 14:53 UTC - As expected, the court granted Apple a temporary reprieve from the suspension and products were returned to online stories. However, Motorola Mobility Inc. has increased the legal pressure and sued Apple Inc. as the owner of the iStores over three patents, requesting all infringing products to be removed.