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Apple talks to the FRAND, reopens Motorola patent fight

Apple has appealed an old billion dollar case claiming Google's Motorola overcharged for FRAND patents in the iPhone.

Apple has reopened a patent dispute with Motorola. CNET UK

Apple has reopened an old front in its patent war with Motorola. The iPhone manufacturer is appealing a case involving billion dollar fees owed to Google's Motorola Mobility for the right to use certain technologies in Apple mobile devices.

"You're talking about billions of dollars hanging over the head of Apple," said an Apple lawyer in the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, according to Bloomberg.

In the earlier case, Apple claimed that by demanding 2.25 percent of the money made from iPhone sales -- roughly £12 for every iPhone sold -- Motorola was bilking them for substantially more than other companies licensing its patents. Motoro-lawyers countered that the fruit-flavoured iPhone-flingers had come into the mobile game late and were attempting to piggy-back on the success of pioneers.

The original case was dismissed in 2012.

FRAND on the run

At issue are patents Motorola holds for specific bits of standard technology used by the whole industry -- in this case, Motorola holds patents on certain elements of technology used in 3G phones. Because companies like Apple can't adopt standards like 3G without using the individual bits that other companies claim as their own, the patent holder could charge loads of cash to the rights to use their patented technology. To avoid patent holders holding rivals over a barrel, these kind of patents require that the holder must charge a fair price for the privilege.

This is called a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) license fee.

The two companies are embroiled in a number of patent spats around the world -- and as if things aren't complicated enough, Google is retaining many of Motorola's patents even as it sells Motorola to Lenovo. In a similar argument between Apple and Motorola, watchdogs at the European Commission warned Motorola with a formal list of complaints over FRAND patents.

Last year courts sided with Microsoft in a patent case against Motorola, awarding Gates' mates $14.5 million.