More Apple woes as Motorola wins tablet patent case

Apple’s army of legal staff will be looking forward to drowning their sorrows this weekend after a series of legal decisions went against Cupertino.

Despite Apple’s best attempts to scupper Samsung’s Christmas sales in Australia, courts ruled that the Galaxy Tab should be made available.

It was also revealed that Apple is about to face some major headaches in China with its iPad, following a court ruling that another firm already has the name trademarked.

So the news that a German court ruled in favour of Motorola Mobility in another patent case will cause further despair for Apple’s legal team, which is much more used to being on the offensive.

An ongoing FRAND patent case over 3G was ruled in Motorola’s favour, after both firms had their chance to put their arguments forward to the court.  A previous decision in Motorola’s favour was less noteworthy as the default judgment was without Apple making a defence.

Now it is Apple which might be looking at having its iPhone and iPad products contested on the shelves following its own hounding.  Samsung has also turned the tables on Apple with the contentious use of FRAND patents which are used to set industry standards.

Apple will, however, appeal the decision, but it is likely Apple’s competitors, not to mention Google which happens to have bought Motorola, will be looking on with glee.

Apple attempted to put a $2.7 billion bond in place which Motorola would be forced to pay should the court overturn an injunction. This was reduced to $134 milllion. 

According to patent boffin Florian Mueller, who revealed the court findings on his FOSSPatents blog, it is still up in the air as to whether Apple could see its products banned

“Apple has told various media that it expects no impact during this Christmas selling season,” he told TechEye. “I believe it depends on whether the appeals court, the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, will suspend the enforcement of the ruling for the duration of the appellate proceedings or not. I guess we’ll know in January.”

With a European Commission investigating the use of FRAND patents in legal fights, primarily with Samsung but will also hit Motorola, Mueller reckons official intervention can’t be ruled out: “It certainly makes Germany an even more attractive place for litigating FRAND patents. I wouldn’t write the EC off, however. European competition law can trump national court decisions.”

As Google waits for the cheque to clear on its purchase of Motorola Mobility it will be watching proceedings enthusiastically.
“Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility and I’m sure they’re pleased to see this decision, but they probably also know that this is all going to take a long time to play out and it’s not yet a final decision,” Mueller said.