Motorola Mobility has won a patent dispute with Apple in Germany this morning that could spell a sales injunction against its products across Europe.
A regional court in Mannheim, Germany ruled that Apple’s devices with cellular networking infringe Motorola-owned patent 1010336. This is the equivalent networking patent as detailed by U.S. Patent No. 6,359,898.
Such devices include the iPhone 3G, 3GS, and the iPhone 4. It also includes the 3G-enabled original iPad and iPad 2. While Motorola did not specifically name the iPhone 4S in its case, it is likely that the latest Apple smartphone is also affected by the ruling.
Unless Apple can secure a stay until a higher regional court can hear an appeal, the iPhone smartphone and iPad tablet could be barred from being sold in Europe.
Apple is expected to appeal for a stay on the injunction as it prepares its appeal.
But whether Germany can enforce a Europe-wide ban on 3G-enabled iOS devices is unclear.
In September, a German court ‘downgraded’ its ban on Samsung selling its Galaxy Tab tablet across Europe, after concerns were raised that the court may not have had the authority to issue such a broad embargo.
FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller says that the injunction is preliminarily enforceable against Ireland-based Apple Sales International, “in exchange for a €100 million ($134 million) bond”, unless Apple wins its stay.
This means that should Apple win a stay on the injunction, Motorola would be liable to pay the bond should it fail in its bid later down the line to keep in the sales in place. The bond is significantly lower than the €2 billion ($2.7 billion) charge that Apple had asked for.
While Apple could attempt to gain a license from Motorola, this would not apply retroactively. Motorola could then insist on damages for Apple’s prior infringement in its previous smartphone and tablet devices.
Apple had sought a “Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND) license, but Motorola had previously convinced the court that the damages Apple inflicted would exceed the FRAND terms.
Germany is one of the strongest economies in the Eurozone, and one of the key markets for Apple in Europe.
Apple declined to comment on the ruling.