The patent battles between Apple and Motorola may have started out a bit quieter than what we first saw with Apple and Samsung, but things have really begun to heat up. The fight began when Motorola sued Apple in the US in 2010 — claiming infringement of over a dozen patents — but has since expanded to nearly every outpost around the world. There's a little bit of everything in this one: antitrust accusations, bans on beloved gadgets, potential government intervention and, of course, good old-fashioned patent infringement. With a June 2012 ruling by US District Court Judge Richard Posner, a substantial portion of the legal activity between these two companies has come to a close (pending appeal), but action continues on other fronts. We're keeping track of it all right here.
May 16, 2014
After years of duking it out in courts around the world, Apple and Google's Motorola Mobility group settled their long-running lawsuit today. In a filing, which was first spotted by Reuters, the two companies said they planned to dismiss all lawsuits against one another. However the pair did not agree to any cross-licensing patent agreement that would have signaled a larger peace between the two companies.Read Article >
Aug 7, 2013
Though Apple's legal battles with Samsung have taken up most of the spotlight for patent infringement cases for the past year, Apple has been in a similar legal fight with Google's Motorola over alleged infringements. Back in March of last year, the International Trade Commission ruled that Motorola's devices did not infringe upon Apple's patents related to multitouch technology on smartphones, and then terminated any further investigation into the matter. But Apple appealed the ITC's decision, and this time, things came down in Apple's favor.Read Article >
In a decision issued today, the Federal Circuit appeals court disagreed with the ITC on two things: that the '607 patent was invalid, and with the ITC's construction of the '828 patent that had resulted in the ITC finding that Motorola hadn't infringed. The case has been sent back to the ITC for a new investigation and another ruling, but based on the appellate court's decision, things may go more positively for Apple this time. That means that Apple could win an import ban on such timeless devices as the Droid X, Charm, and XOOM, which wouldn't have a great effect on Motorola's bottom line these days. However, there is a good chance that since so many of Motorola's older devices are claimed to be infringing upon Apple's patents in this case, the ITC could issue a relatively broad exclusion order that includes more recent devices that weren't around at the time the case was started.
Apr 11, 2013
Apple and Google's ongoing, multi-venue, litigation war over mobile patents has "no end" in sight, according to a US district court judge in Miami, Florida, who excoriated both companies for using their lawsuits as "business strategy," in an order issued yesterday. "The parties have no interest in efficiently and expeditiously resolving this dispute; they instead are using this and similar litigation worldwide as a business strategy that appears to have no end," wrote Judge Robert Scola. "That is not a proper use of this court." He also accused both of "obstreperous and cantankerous conduct."Read Article >
The judge's order requires both companies to work together to narrow the scope of this particular dispute from over 180 separate claims involving 12 patents, within four months, by August 5, 2013. If they can't do that, the case will be put on hold. Prior to being acquired by Google, Motorola Mobility first launched one case against Apple in Florida in 2010 and filed another one in January 2012, accusing Apple of infringing on Motorola technology with the iPhone 4S and iCloud. The cases have since been combined into one.
Jan 30, 2013
Tonight one of the big outstanding issues in the Apple vs. Samsung case came to a close when Judge Lucy Koh ruled that Samsung's infringement of Apple patents was not in fact willful. At issue are the seven design and utility patents that the jury found Samsung had infringed in a $1.049 billion win for Apple last August. The jury had decided that Samsung's infringement in five of the instances had in fact been willful — a finding that could have led to a ballooning of the damages Samsung would be instructed to pay. As part of the post-verdict proceedings, Samsung's legal team asked Koh to consider whether this should be challenged. Judge Koh agreed.Read Article >
As Koh writes in the ruling, for an ultimate finding of willfulness to hold Apple needed to prove that there was an "objectively high likelihood that its [Samsung's] actions constituted infringement of a valid patent." Samsung had argued that it had reason to believe Apple's patents were invalid — so that even if Samsung had infringed, it couldn't be found to have done so willfully. Koh found Samsung's arguments reasonable enough to rule out an overall finding of willful infringement. In other words, she believed Samsung went into the whole situation with a reasonable belief that it wasn't in the wrong.
Dec 5, 2012
If you've been left a little nonplussed by Apple's lawsuits against Android hardware manufacturers, Google chairman Eric Schmidt is wondering the same thing. In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, Schmidt said it's "extremely curious that Apple has chosen to sue Google's partners and not Google itself." Apple recently settled its patent disputes with HTC out of court, and most famously won a protracted legal battle against Samsung earlier this year.Read Article >
However, it's not too hard to see Apple's motivations. Samsung is the company making the most money directly from Android with its hugely successful line of products, many of which were found to infringe various Apple patents, and it's in Cupertino's interest to stop that happening where possible. In court, Apple produced a 132-page internal report from Samsung that directly encouraged its designers to take cues from the iPhone.
Oct 2, 2012
Back in August Motorola filed a new round of patent infringement claims against Apple with the US International Trade Commission, seeking an import ban on the iPhone and the iPad — but in a recent filing the company mysteriously withdrew the complaints. It's unclear just what led Google-owned Motorola to make the move; normally we'd expect this type of withdrawal if a settlement was near, but in the filing itself Motorola specifically states that "There are no agreements between Motorola and Apple, written or oral, express or implied, concerning the subject matter of this investigation."Read Article >
Whether the move is indicative of concerns Motorola had with its case — or something else entirely — remains to be seen. We've reached out to Apple and Motorola for comment, and will update you with any further developments.
Aug 25, 2012Read Article >
Samsung has already issued a statement commenting on its devastating loss in its legal tussle with Apple. The company pulls no punches, calling back to the stirring language it used in its closing arguments. We're reproducing it in its entirety below.
Aug 17, 2012
Motorola files new patent case against Apple with ITC, wants import ban on iPhone and iPad (updated)
The patent battle continues anew between Apple and Motorola this week with the Google subsidiary filing a fresh patent case with the US International Trade Commission today. Details of the claims aren't yet available, but The Wall Street Journal is reporting that Motorola is alleging that Cupertino is in violation of seven patents — none of which are considered standards-essential (that is, Motorola is under no obligation to license the patents under FRAND terms). Motorola says that Apple has shown "unwillingness" to work on a licensing scheme for the IP that it says affects the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, and it's asking for the ITC to levy an import ban as a result.Read Article >
As with all patent cases, it could take some time for this one to play out — assuming Apple doesn't cave to Motorola's licensing terms.
Jul 17, 2012
While Apple has had some success enforcing its iPad design patent rights against Samsung's Galaxy Tab 10.1 devices around the world, it's beginning to look like other tablet designs are increasingly more likely to avoid the same misfortune. Dow Jones is reporting that the Dusseldorf Regional Court in Germany today rejected claims that Motorola's Xoom tablet infringes Apple's European design registration on the iPad. The same court ruled earlier this year that the redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1N similarly escaped the reach of Apple's infringement assertions.Read Article >
Today's decision isn't terribly surprising considering the real-world limitations on Apple's design coverage for the iPad. Design patents are narrowly interpreted and noticeable modifications to the slope of the sides, the bezel proportions, and other aesthetic features can provide solid workaround options for competing tablet manufacturers. It seems the court simply believed the Xoom tablet had distinguished itself enough from the protected iPad design.
Jul 5, 2012
In wake of Apple v. Motorola, Judge Posner speaks: 'it's not clear that we really need patents in most industries'
When Richard Posner, a judge on the Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, senior lecturer for the University of Chicago Law School, and author of dozens of books on jurisprudence and economics says that "it's not clear that we really need patents in most industries," that's a big deal. During his talk with Reuters, he spoke about his recent dismissal of the Apple v. Motorola case and his stance on patent law.Read Article >
Posner doesn't blame these companies for trying to compete in the courtroom — he says they are simply using every available opportunity to secure dominance in an industry and maximize shareholder value. The problem arises when patent litigation ceases to benefit the consumer in any appreciable way. In the case of Apple v. Motorola, Apple's patent on a video streaming feature would have resulted in the entire phone being banned, but Posner insisted in his June 22nd order that Apple's patent "is not a claim to a monopoly of streaming video!" He likened the current competitive environment to a jungle, where "the animals will use all the means at their disposal, all their teeth and claws that are permitted by the ecosystem."
Jun 23, 2012
In US federal court this evening, Judge Richard Posner just ruled that the case of Apple v. Motorola will be dismissed in its entirety. The case, in which Apple alleged Motorola was in violation of four of its patents and Motorola was left with one claim in return (the patent counts had originally been higher on both sides), had been in litigation since 2010, most recently with a hearing in Chicago this past Wednesday.Read Article >
This isn't the first time Posner has dismissed the case — he had tentatively dismissed it a couple weeks ago, before allowing both sides one more chance to make their case. In his latest ruling, it looks like the reasoning is essentially the same as it was before: neither Apple nor Motorola were able to prove damages in his view, and therefore, an injunction against the sale of any products is unwarranted.
Jun 20, 2012
Attorneys for both Apple and Motorola appeared before renowned judge Richard A. Posner this morning in a Chicago federal courtroom in an attempt to explain why the court should order an injunction against the other's products. Posner made headlines recently for tentatively dismissing the case altogether before ultimately deciding to give both parties another chance to prove that either side has demonstrated the need for an injunction against the other's products that could prevent sales and shipments, present and future.Read Article >
The ongoing case currently involves four Apple patents:
Jun 14, 2012
Judge Richard Posner harshly dismissed Apple and Motorola's patent trial last week, but in a new order issued yesterday, has decided to give Apple an opportunity to prove whether it deserves an injunction — even if it doesn't receive any damages from its adversary. Posner says that both Apple and Motorola may argue that they are deserving of injunctive relief, and have until Monday, June 18th to submit briefs. It's still a real possibility that Posner won't give Apple or Motorola anything, but with this decision, Posner will be creating a record that could protect his decision on appeal. We'll be sure to keep tracking the case, but there's no guarantee either Apple or Motorola will get what they've both admitted will alleviate their grievances: money.Read Article >
Matt Macari contributed to this report.
The Apple vs. Motorola patent trial scheduled to start on Monday has now been dismissed with prejudice by Judge Richard Posner, who says that "neither party can establish a right to relief." We'd heard earlier that Judge Posner had canceled the start of the trial but didn't know the extent of his decision to close down proceedings; his latest order makes it clear that neither party has put forth what he considers to be a valid case.Read Article >
Posner's been openly frustrated with both Motorola and Apple from the start — Apple's attorneys were given a stern warning about filing too many motions in May, for example. His order denying the case is just as tart as you'd expect: he says that neither Apple nor Motorola has proven exactly how much money any of the alleged patent infringements have cost, and that since both sides agree that money will fix everything, there's no reason to block products either. Posner also says that he's just issuing a temporary order for now and he might change his mind as he works up a formal opinion, which he promises to issue sometime next week.
It was just last week that FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz said he was "enormously concerned" about technology firms abusing standards-related patents in the global smartphone patent wars, and today his agency is asking the US International Trade Commission to carefully reconsider banning products like the Xbox 360 that allegedly infringe upon patents that are required to be fairly licensed as part of standards agreements. It's a major milestone in what has become a serious international dispute about rights and responsibilities of standards-patent holders — companies like Motorola and Samsung have relied heavily on their standards-related patents in various lawsuits, and the FTC is expressing deep concern about the validity of that approach to block products from market.Read Article >
Specifically, the FTC issued a statement to the ITC in both the Apple vs. Motorola and Motorola vs. Microsoft cases now pending, saying that it's concerned a company might make a promise to license a standard-related patent under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms, and then fight to ban products using those patents as a way to negotiate higher, unfair rates. That's exactly what Apple and Microsoft claim Motorola is trying to do, but so far they haven't been successful — Moto won ITC rulings saying the Xbox 360 infringed several FRAND patents on H.264 video encoding and that the iPhone and iPad infringe a FRAND patent on wireless communications.
Jun 7, 2012
Bloomberg is reporting that Federal Judge Richard A. Posner has canceled the Apple v. Motorola Mobility patent infringement trial originally set to start on June 11. Judge Posner apparently issued this order during a pre-trial hearing today, so we don't yet have the written order in front of us. It's not unusual for trial dates to get shifted around, although this one was admittedly at the eleventh hour.Read Article >
Update: We've now learned that Posner canceled the jury trial because the parties were unable to reconcile their damage reports, an issue he apparently found unacceptable. However, Apple argued that it's still entitled to a resolution on its request for an injunction against various Motorola devices and it appears the court will issue a hearing schedule this evening to address injunctive relief. While it's sounding like Apple will lose its chance at getting any money from Motorola, we're pretty sure its main goal has always been to get a ban on the allegedly infringing devices. We'll keep you updated as we learn more.
May 1, 2012
Less than a month after publicly scorning Apple's practices in his court, renowned federal judge Richard A. Posner is again calling out Apple in its patent case against Motorola — this time with an explicit warning that it may be forbidden from filing future motions without express permission from the court. The current courtroom drama centers around a motion Apple recently filed, asking the court to stop the deposition of one of its experts. On its face, that doesn't seem particularly egregious. In fact, it's rather standard practice. However, the problem is that Judge Posner already denied such a request from Apple just a few days earlier. Judge Posner has a reputation for being a strict taskmaster, so it's not surprising that the judge's order on Apple's renewed attempt to stop the deposition was oozing with displeasure — going as far as to call Apple's attempt to use the health of the expert's wife to justify rescheduling a "disingenuous" excuse. That alone is enough to cause any attorney concern, but it gets worse for Apple. Judge Posner went on to make it clear Apple has received its final warning:Read Article >
To be clear, this isn't a threat to kill off Apple's substantive case against Motorola, but a requirement that all motions must be pre-approved before filing would be a substantial inconvenience and procedural hurdle going forward. At a minimum, Apple isn't doing itself any favors. It's not the first time Judge Posner has expressed irritation with a party or its attorneys, but we're sure Apple didn't want to become the main focus of his ire in this case. We imagine Apple will be walking a bit softer from here on out.
Apr 24, 2012
An administrative law judge at the US International Trade Commission issued a preliminary ruling today in Motorola's patent infringement case against Apple — holding that iPhone and iPad devices infringe US patent no. 6,246,697. As with all preliminary rulings at the ITC, this decision is subject to review by a full panel of ITC judges, so there won't be any immediate impact on the sales of iOS devices in the near term.Read Article >
Both Motorola and Apple commented on the ruling to All Things D, with Motorola saying it's "pleased that the ALJ's initial determination finds Apple to be in violation of Motorola Mobility's intellectual property, and look forward to the full commission's ruling in August." Not surprisingly, Apple has a different take, indicating it was happy three of the four patents were found to not be infringed and that "the fourth covers industry-standard technology which Motorola has refused to license to Apple on reasonable terms." Apple went on to emphasize that "a court in Germany has already declared this patent invalid, so we believe we will have a very strong case on appeal." It'll likely be some time before we get a definitive resolution on the infringement and FRAND accusations bouncing back and forth between these two companies, but we'll keep you updated as things evolve.
Apr 13, 2012Read Article >
The decision means that iCloud and MobileMe users in Germany will be without push email for the foreseeable future. Any users affected can see Apple's official support page for information on how to set up their devices to manually fetch e-mail.
Apr 2, 2012
Apple won an important victory on Thursday against Motorola in the form of a claim construction order from US Judge Richard A. Posner, interpreting the meaning of certain claim language in Apple's US Patent No. 7,479,949 relating to scrolling behavior. While the court didn't provide a decisive infringement ruling, it did get Apple one step closer to that ultimate goal by adopting its broad interpretation of the patent. The judge was tasked this time with construing claims in the '949 patent on multi-dimensional scrolling on a touch device — simply put, an upward or downward finger swipe that starts off along an angular path, that's not perfectly vertical, will still be interpreted and locked in as a pure vertical movement to prevent horizontal scrolling.Read Article >
Claim construction is a proceeding common to all US patent litigation, where the judge dissects terms or phrases in the patent claims in an attempt to better define the real scope of the patent. Defendants generally seek a narrow interpretation that will get them out of infringement and patent owners go after a broad interpretation that will nearly guarantee a finding of infringement. In this case, Motorola wanted the court to insert a narrow requirement into this particular claim language that a finger swipe had to move within exactly 27 degrees of being perfectly vertical before the device would translate that movement into a purely vertical scroll. Apple, of course, didn't want any specific thresholds imposed on the angle of movement. Judge Posner agreed with Apple's broader interpretation of the claim language, merely requiring that the angle fall within a predetermined range of perfectly vertical:
Mar 19, 2012
The web of patent lawsuits between Apple and Motorola may have just thinned out a strand. Back in January, Motorola Mobility received an initial ruling from the ITC regarding Apple's 2010 patent infringement claim, finding that it didn't infringe on the three patents in question. Now, the ITC is handing down its final determination, backing up the original finding and terminating the ITC's investigation into the matter. While this marks the end of the road for the Commission's current investigation, Apple is likely to appeal the decision to the Federal Circuit — just as it did against HTC two months ago — so this might not be the last we hear about the patents.Read Article >
The three patents under consideration are: the '828 patent, which covers "ellipse fitting for multitouch surfaces," the '430 patent, which covers an "object-oriented locator system," and the '607 patent, which covers a "multipoint touchscreen." In the ITC's ruling, the judge found that Motorola's products didn't infringe on the '807 patent. The '430 and '607 patents on the other hand were found to be infringed, but a legal exception means that Motorola is off the hook. Hopefully the rumored settlement talks start to pick up some steam and everyone can put their litigation budgets toward something more productive.
Mar 16, 2012
According to the FOSS Patents blog, a German appeals court has denied Apple's bid to suspend an injunction imposed on iCloud and MobilMe push notification services in Germany. The Mannheim Regional Court ruled last month that certain Apple email services were infringing a Motorola patent (EP0847654), and Motorola began enforcing the injunction just a few weeks later.Read Article >
Apple appealed the lower court ruling and had requested that the appeals court lift the injunction until a final decision is reached. Apple's appeal is primarily challenging the validity of Motorola's patent. It's worth noting that the appeals court's denial of Apple's request is not a substantive ruling on the merits of its case — it just means that the injunction will remain in place until the process is complete, which could be a year or more away. In the meantime, Apple has advised German users that they can still manually update their inboxes, or set their iOS devices to check for email periodically.
Mar 7, 2012
We've always assumed that the worldwide patent battles between Apple and Android smartphone manufacturers would end in a tidal wave of settlements, and it appears the first trickles of hope are leaking out: Dow Jones is reporting that Apple's proposed settlements with both Samsung and Motorola in exchange for license royalties on its patents. It's not the first time Cupertino's proposed a settlement in its smartphone patent litigation: Apple famously settled its patent lawsuit with Nokia by agreeing to pay an estimated €430m in licensing fees and cross-licensing some patents, and the company held failed negotiations with Samsung in November 2010 that also included a potential patent licensing deal.Read Article >
According to Dow Jones, Apple's asking for something between 1 and 2.5 percent of the net handset price for its patents, or around $5 and $15 per device — along the lines of what Microsoft has been getting from Android manufacturers. That just about matches what Motorola's been asking for as well, but the difference is that Apple's patents aren't essential to wireless standards; both Motorola and Samsung have been drawing international regulatory scrutiny for their excessive demands on standards-essential patents.
Mar 6, 2012
Although the worldwide patent lawsuits between Apple and nearly every major Android smartphone vendor have been bitterly fought and may eventually involve government intervention, there's really no day-to-day impact on the consumer — Apple, Google, and its OEMs continue to improve and sell their devices as quickly as they can. But a quick tour through the halls of Mobile World Congress reveals that Android OEMs are rapidly learning to design around some of Apple's iPhone-related patents, and coming up with some pretty innovative ideas in the process.Read Article >
I focused on two of Apple's more notorious patents: #7,469,381, which covers the distinctive "scrollback" behavior in iOS, and #7,657,849, which is the infamous "slide-to-unlock" patent. Apple's asserted both of these patents against Android makers in US litigation, and it's clearly had an effect: almost none of the major phones announced at MWC 2012 had scrolling or unlock features that touch on the most important elements of Apple's patent claims. Part of that is simply because Google's made substantive changes to recent versions of Android itself, but manufacturers like HTC and LG have diverged sharply from stock Android and built their own unique implementations of both features. (On the other hand, Sony's unlock is exactly like Apple's.)
Mar 1, 2012
Apple just won a German sales injunction against Motorola Android devices, which were found to infringe an Apple patent on scrolling behavior in the photo gallery application. It's the second major legal victory related to this patent Apple's had in the past few months; it won a similar injunction against Samsung in the Netherlands in October.Read Article >
Of course, a legal victory really just means more cash for the lawyers — like Samsung, Motorola can just update its photo gallery app to work around Apple's patent. We'll start counting down until the company releases a statement to that effect; until then, German Motorola customers should get their last little bit of photo swiping in while they can.