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Motorola Mobility accused of stealing trade secrets

It's the latest twist in an ongoing legal battle between Motorola and private technology company Lemko over intellectual property.

Motorola Mobility's presence at a recent wireless conference. Roger Cheng/CNET

Motorola Mobility stole and profited from unique source code related to mobile technology, a private technology firm alleged on a lawsuit filed yesterday.

Lemko claimed Motorola hired away an engineer responsible for creating the source code, and sent the intellectual property to its operations in China. The complaint is part of a broader legal battle between the two companies that has been raging on for years.

A Motorola spokeswoman said the company hasn't received the complaint, and wouldn't provide comment until it reviewed it.

The source code relates to a technology called position-determining entity, which relates to how a phone can locate its position through satellite signals. This, combined with cellular towers, powers services such as Google Maps and Foursquare.

The suit claims that Motorola admitted that Lemko's source code was on its servers, but sought to cover it up by sending it to its China labs. It also claims the source code is in at least one Motorola handset, which was tested on the Sprint Nextel network.

The lawsuit could threaten Google's $12.5 billion takeover of Motorola Mobility. Lemko has vowed to throw obstacles in front of the deal.

"Lemko is committed to protecting itself against the theft of its software," a company spokesman said in a statement. "Lemko will vigorously defend its intellectual property rights and will exercise its legal rights to prevent Motorola's illegal sale which would result in the fraudulent conveyance of our source code to Google."

Motorola previously sued Lemko, accusing it of making off with trade secrets, the Chicago Tribune reported. The company alleged the same employee who was hired away secretly worked for Lemco and supplied it with valuable Motorola secrets. The Tribune also reported Lemco last week sued Motorola Solutions, claiming the company has interfered with its business.

At the beginning of this year, Motorola split into Motorola Mobility, which deals with handsets and set-top boxes, and Motorola Solutions, which deals with public safety networks and enterprise mobile devices.