Motorola Files Patent Suit to Ban Apple Devices in U.S.; Reaches Licensing Deal in Germany

Paul Lilly

Just because Apple scored a sweeping victory against Samsung in its patent trial in the U.S., which led to the nine panel jury awarding the Cupertino company more than a billion dollars in damages, it doesn't mean the whole matter of Android versus iOS is settled. Far from it, in fact. Days before the verdict was reached, Google's recently acquired Motorola Mobility division filed a patent suit of its own against Apple, one in which it will try to ban Apple imports in the U.S. Interestingly, Apple appears willing to go to trial, especially with the Samsung case under its belt, but in Germany, the company caved and reached a licensing deal with Motorola.

Why the change in strategy? No one outside of Apple's ranks knows for sure, but based on FOSS Patents founder Florian Mueller's analysis of the situation, there are a couple of reasons. First is the fact that it's unclear when the German license agreement came into being. Mueller says German courts don't make documents available, so this could be an older deal that's just now being discovered.

Secondly, Mueller points out that in Germany, "finding of infringement automatically results in an injunction, the only exception being standard-essential patents." It's being reported that Motorola's beef is, in fact, with standard-essential patents, and that the only thing Apple didn't agree on was Motorola's royalty rate.

"Under the agreement, Apple is now licensed to use some if not all of Motorola's standard-essential patents in Germany, though the parties have not yet agreed on a FRAND royalty rate, which will ultimately have to be set by German courts unless they agree on a rate prior to its judicial determination," Mueller explains. "This is a very significant development because it means that Motorola Mobility will have to rely on non-standard-essential patents in its efforts to gain leverage over Apple."

By reaching an agreement with Motorola, Apple ensures that the only thing Motorola can do now (in Germany) is go after a high royalty rate, which is a far better scenario than fighting over non standard-essential patents and risking an immediate injunction.

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