Apple slides to a victory in Motorola unlock case

It's Apple's first win in a patent case - which paves the way to even more bickering among smartphone manufacturers.

by Emma Haslett
Last Updated: 06 Jun 2012
The war of the smartphones continues apace, we see – the latest battle having been won by Apple, which challenged rival Motorola Mobility over a ‘slide to unlock’ feature on its phones. Although the case was heard in Munich (chosen because judges in Germany tend to hand down judgements on intellectual property cases more quickly than elsewhere), it marks Apple’s first IP-related court victory. Although we doubt it’ll be the last…

Motorola was adamant that the ruling wouldn’t hurt sales. ‘Motorola has implemented a new design for the feature,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Therefore we expect no impact on current supply or future sales.’ But Apple has plenty more tricks up its sleeve: in fact, the entire world of smartphones is rife with suing and counter-suing over various technicalities. As an example, Apple was expecting a second patent ruling yesterday about how users scroll through images in a picture gallery – although that one was put off by the court.

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that Motorola Mobility was hitting the headlines earlier this week because it’s on the brink of being acquired by Google. It’s a good fit, not just because most of its smartphones use Google’s Android software, but also because it owns something in the region of 17,000 patents (with another 7,500 pending). The idea being (obviously not expressly articulated by the company) that Google can then take its rivals to court over perceived copyright infringement. Even if it doesn’t win the cases, it’ll still slow down product development for its rivals.

What’s interesting is how Apple’s approach differs from its competitors’. Most of the cases brought by Apple stipulate that where there have been patent infringements, its rivals will have to stop selling their devices, or redesign them. Others, including Microsoft have opted to seek royalties on each device sold.

But the European Commission and the US Department of Justice aren’t happy about either tactic: they’ve slapped the wrists of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Motorola Mobility, pointing out that the use of patents in litigation could be construed as ‘antitrust abuse’. They demanded all four put in writing that they won’t be doing it again – although so far, only Microsoft and Apple have responded – and apparently, the language in Apple’s letter was ‘ambiguous’. So don’t expect the in-fighting to let up anytime soon…

Apple slides to a victory in Motorola unlock case

 

It’s Apple’s first win in a patent case – which paves the way to even more bickering among smartphone manufacturers.

 

The war of the smartphones continues apace, we see – the latest battle having been won by Apple, which challenged rival Motorola Mobility over a ‘slide to unlock’ feature on its phones. Although the case was heard in Munich (chosen because judges in Germany tend to hand down judgements on intellectual property cases more quickly than elsewhere), it marks Apple’s first IP-related court victory. Although we doubt it’ll be the last…

 

Motorola was adamant that the ruling wouldn’t hurt sales. ‘Motorola has implemented a new design for the feature,’ said a spokesperson. ‘Therefore we expect no impact on current supply or future sales.’ But Apple has plenty more tricks up its sleeve: in fact, the entire world of smartphones is rife with suing and counter-suing over various technicalities. As an example, Apple was expecting a second patent ruling yesterday about how users scroll through images in a picture gallery – although that one was put off by the court.

 

Eagle-eyed readers will have spotted that Motorola Mobility was hitting the headlines earlier this week http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/1117019/Apple-ripens-biggest-company-world-shares-hit-500/ because it’s on the brink of being acquired by Google. It’s a good fit, not just because most of its smartphones use Google’s Android software, but also because it owns something in the region of 17,000 patents (with another 7,500 pending). The idea being (obviously not expressly articulated by the company) that Google can then take its rivals to court over perceived copyright infringement. Even if it doesn’t win the cases, it’ll still slow down product development for its rivals.

 

What’s interesting is how Apple’s approach differs from its competitors’. While most of the cases brought by Apple stipulate that where there have been patent infringements, its rivals will have to stop selling their devices, or redesign them. Others, including Microsoft have opted to seek royalties on each device sold.

 

But the European Commission and the US Department of Justice aren’t happy about either tactic: they’ve slapped the wrists of Apple, Google, Microsoft and Motorola Mobility, pointing out that the use of patents in litigation could be construed as ‘antitrust abuse’. They demanded all four put in writing that they won’t be doing it again – although so far, only Microsoft and Apple have responded – and apparently, the language in Apple’s letter was ‘ambiguous’. So don’t expect the in-fighting to let up anytime soon…

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