Want CNET to notify you of price drops and the latest stories?

Apple wins 'rubber-banding' patent ban against Motorola

A German court finds that Apple can enforce a ban in the country against certain Motorola devices over patent infringement claims.

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 eked out yet another legal victory against its Android competition.

After a five-week delay, a regional court in Munich, Germany, ruled that Apple can file for an injunction against Motorola phones and tablets following claims of patent infringement, according to Foss Patents' Florian Mueller. The patent in question deals with the so-called "rubber-banding" feature, an effect that causes a page on a mobile device to bounce back up after a user has swiped to the bottom of the screen.

Describing the technology in both a European patent and U.S. patent, Apple had accused Motorola of copying the feature for its own devices.

An at April court hearing, Motorola actually acknowledged the infringement and instead sought to render Apple's patent invalid, Mueller said. But in an August trial, the company had changed its strategy to deny the infringement. Clearly, neither approach has worked, at least not so far.

Apple now faces a few choices depending on how much money it wants to spend.

The company can post a $32 million bond to enforce the ban, which isn't considered permanent since it can be appealed. It can kick in an additional $12.9 million to force Motorola to get rid of any devices found to have infringed on the patent. Or it can up the ante with yet another $12.9 million to get a Germany recall of all infringing products.

Motorola parent Google is expected to appeal the decision to the Munich Higher Regional Court and continue contesting the validity of the patent with the European Patent Office.

A spokeswoman for Motorola told CNET that the company expects the written decision next week, but based on the latest outcome, "we believe this will have a minimal impact on our business, if any."

Motorola doesn't do huge business in Germany, so the effects of a product ban just in that country may be minimal. But the ruling in this case and several others combined spells more trouble for Android itself, according to Mueller.

"The outcome of those cases shows that Android has far bigger patent infringement problems than any piece of computer software has ever had in the history of the industry," Mueller said, "and this has many of Google's hardware partners profoundly concerned."

It's important to note that Mueller has served as a paid legal consultant for companies such as Oracle. But Apple clearly is aiming to make life as difficult as possible for Android, bringing to mind the comment from the late Steve Jobs that he was "willing to go thermonuclear war" in his fight against Google and its mobile operating system.

Apple recently scored a blow against Android in the U.S. when the company was awarded $1 billion in damages from Samsung in a huge patent infringement case.

CNET contacted both Apple for comment and will update the story if we get more information.