The legal tennis match over smartphone patents is still dragging on, and it was Apple’s turn Monday to claim victory in a dispute in Germany. A court ruled that Motorola can’t enforce an injunction that would have forced Apple to pull the iPhone and iPad from Germany, although Apple still faces a problem involving a different Motorola patent.
According to Bloomberg, Apple will still be allowed to sell iPhones and iPads in Germany while the court hears its appeal of an injunction involving what’s known as a standards-essential patent, which are treated differently than other patents because of their proximity to technical standards. In December Motorola won an injunction against Apple involving one of these patents, but has since been criticized for seeking what many believe to be an exorbitant rate for a license to that patent.
After Apple made a counteroffer for a licensing deal, the court ruled that Motorola “would violate its duties under antitrust rules” if it rejected the offer and enforced the injunction, according to Bloomberg’s translation of German court documents. U.S. and European regulators have had a careful eye on Motorola over this issue of “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” licensing policies for standards-essential patents, clearing Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola but warning the two companies to play fair with these patents or face increased scrutiny.
So, in short, Apple can still sell its iOS devices in Germany but still has to convince the court to overturn the initial ruling. While it may have a strong argument in this case given the standards-essential label attached to that particular patent, it faces a separate problem unaffected by this ruling: the ban on iCloud push e-mail related to a different Motorola patent that is not subject to the standards-essential rules.
The “patent peace” that Google’s Andy Rubin hoped for last year clearly won’t arrive any time soon. In most cases, the lawyers are the only winners in patent disputes.