Google could be the latest casualty of Apple’s multinational patent infringement cases.
The world’s biggest search engine bought US phone maker Motorola Mobility for $12.5bn in May and launched a new series of Motorola Razrs earlier this month.
But Google has now found itself on the losing side in a court case. Its Motorola unit could face having to recall its Android smartphones and tablets in Germany after being unsuccessful in a patent lawsuit with Apple.
It all centres around one of the inventions which was also key to the high profile case in California in which Samsung was found to have violated Apple’s bounce back patent.
Now the ruling in the German court has found that Motorola too has infringed Apple’s iOS system’s bounce back list feature.
The ruling, issued by a court in Munich, means Apple could demand some of Motorola’s devices are removed from the shelves. In order, however, for any sales ban to come into effect, Apple has to put forward a formal request for such an action and the firm also has to lodge a bond of $32m.
It could mean that Motorola, which has seen a whole new lease of life under its new parent company, could have to recall three of its latest devices – the RAZR HD, the RAZR Maxx HD, and the RAZR M. The firm has won praise for producing compact phones that don’t skimp on specs.
While Google has not yet issued any statement, it is expected to appeal the decision. The court also ruled that Motorola Mobility (MMI) must pay Apple damages for past infringement, although no decision on the amount that should be paid has yet been announced.
While even if Apple does demand a recall it is unlikely that Motorola’s business will face any serious damage worldwide, it is yet another success in Apple’s bid to prevent its patents being used in other devices.
The judge in the Munich case, Peter Guntz, ruled that MMI had violated Apple’s “overscroll bounce” technology. The innovation works by letting smartphone and tablet users move their documents over the screen. When you release your fingers the documents bounce back to the centre.
Obviously the ruling will come as a blow to Google, but when it bought loss-making MMI, the search engine firm went in it for the long-term. The strategy for Google is to use MMI’s own patents to fight any legal battles it faces against its Android mobile platform and to use the acquisition as a launchpad to expand beyond its existing software business.
Other technology companies have also taken the same approach – investing huge chunks of their turnover buying up patent portfolios that they can use against rivals. Two of the world’s largest Android smartphone makers, Samsung and HTC, are both suing and being countersued by Apple on both sides of the Pond.
Germany has found itself becoming one of the key battlegrounds in the patent war between mobile phone and tablet manufacturers because court actions there are cheaper than elsewhere across the globe and have also proved quicker than in other jurisdictions.