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Apple loses patent battle with Motorola; war drags on

A German court says the iPhone maker violates a Motorola Mobility patent related to a countdown function in a packet radio system.

Don Reisinger
Former CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Apple was dealt a significant blow in a German court today after a judge ruled the company is in violation of a Motorola Mobility patent.

According to Foss Patents, which obtained the ruling, the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany ruled today that Apple violates Motorola Mobility's patent on a "method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system." The patent plays a key role in General Packet Radio Service (GPRS), and according to the court documents, is violated by Apple's entire iPhone and iPad 3G line.

The preliminary injunction doesn't appear to limit Apple's sales in Europe for now. That said, the court says that Motorola can pay 100 million euros ($134 million) as bond to enforce the ruling against Apple Sales International, an Ireland-based division of the company that handles its European sales, while it makes its way through the appeals process. If Apple doesn't get a stay on the ruling, its German sales "will be impacted," Foss Patents' Florian Mueller says.

"We are pleased with the court's ruling," Motorola Mobility senior vice president and general counsel Scott Offer said in a statement. "Today's decision validates Motorola Mobility's efforts to enforce its patents against Apple's infringement."

A little over a month ago, the same Mannheim court issued an injunction against the Mac maker, saying that its products violate two patents Motorola holds.

"We will continue to assert ourselves in the protection of these assets, while also ensuring that our technologies are widely available to end users," said Jennifer Erickson, a Motorola spokesperson, in a statement to CNET at the time. "We hope that we are able to resolve this matter, so we can focus on creating great innovations that benefit the industry."

The Mannheim court will hold a second hearing on that ruling early next year, Mueller reported today.

But the battle between the companies stretches far beyond Germany's borders. Last October, Motorola took its case to the U.S. International Trade Commission, saying that Apple violates 18 patents it holds. Apple responded with a lawsuit of its own, saying that Motorola violated six of its patents in its line of smartphones, including the Droid, Droid 2, and Droid X.

Apple's most recent patent loss follows a victory yesterday for the iPhone maker in France after a court there denied Samsung's request to ban iPhone 4S sales. Just hours later, however, an Australia court overruled an earlier decision banning the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country.

Apple did not immediately respond to CNET's request for comment.

Correction, 8:28 a.m. PT: This story misstated which company needs to pay the 100 million euro bond. It is Motorola Mobility.