Apple snatches a victory in Motorola patent wars

A German judge has ruled in favor of Apple in one of several patent suits with Motorola, finding that iPhone maker did not violate a patent related to 3G/UMTS wireless communications.

Lance Whitney Contributing Writer
Lance Whitney is a freelance technology writer and trainer and a former IT professional. He's written for Time, CNET, PCMag, and several other publications. He's the author of two tech books--one on Windows and another on LinkedIn.
Lance Whitney
3 min read

Apple has finally scored a win in its never-ending patent battles with Motorola Mobility.

A German judge today found that the iPhone maker did not infringe on a Motorola patent related to wireless technology, according to Florian Mueller's Foss Patents legal blog.

The patent in question covers 3G/UMTS wireless communications and in tech jargon refers to a "method and system for generating a complex pseudonoise sequence for processing a code division multiple access [CDMA] signal."

Motorola had argued that any use of 3G/UMTS by Apple would violate the patent. But Judge Andreas Voss was unconvinced, finding that Motorola failed to provide evidence that any Apple products had adopted the specific invention either through hardware or software code.

"Since the asserted patent claim is centered around the 'means' used to generate a number that optimizes wireless transmissions, the court would have wanted to see proof that Apple's products contain such 'means,'" explained Mueller. "[Motorola Mobility] didn't show any kind of actual implementation (neither hardware nor software), and arguing merely on the basis of the specifications of the standard was insufficient to win."

The ruling provides a victory for Apple, which had been on a losing streak in the German patent courts.

Last week Apple was forced to remove older iPhones and iPads from its online store in Germany following a December ruling calling for their ban. The judge had found that the older products had violated Motorola's patent since they used 3G/UMTS for wireless communication. Apple appealed the ban and was granted a temporary reprieve.

Apple also was on the losing end of another decision from Judge Voss granting Motorola's request to permanently ban Apple's push e-mail services, a key part of iCloud. Such a feature lets e-mails automatically be sent to mobile devices instead of users having to manually pull them in and is found on BlackBerrys and other smartphones. Apple has argued that this case relates to an old patent and that it plans to appeal the decision.

In November, Apple reached out to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute, hoping to bring some clarity to the patent wars.

The ETSI, which counts Samsung and Motorola among its members, was asked by the iPhone maker to convince its member companies to set reasonable royalty rates and patent terms on mobile devices. Apple has argued that companies holding patents that turn into industry standards must offer them on a "Frand," or fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory basis.

Apple has been squaring off against Samsung, Motorola, and HTC. But the true legal battle is between Apple and Google, or iOS and Android. Apple has skirted around Google by going after its Android partners. But assuming Google will be given the nod to acquire Motorola, then it could easily find itself pitted directly against Apple in the patent courts.

If it does take ownership of Motorola, Google has promised to uphold fair licensing standards for Motorola patents.

Going after Android was almost an obsession with the late Steve Jobs. As related in last year's biography by Walter Isaacson, Apple's co-founder was quoted as saying, "I will spend my last dying breath if I need to, and I will spend every penny of Apple's $40 billion in the bank, to right this wrong. I'm going to destroy Android, because it's a stolen product. I'm willing to go thermonuclear war on this."

A Motorola representative told CNET that while the company declined to comment on specific details, "we will continue to protect our intellectual property." An Apple representative declined to comment.

Updated at 6:45 a.m. PT and 7:30 a.m. PT with response from Apple and then from Motorola.