Apple was on the receiving end of an extremely important legal ruling in Germany this week. If you recall, Motorola had secured a favorable decision with respect to its 3G patents, but now the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court has ruled that Motorola can’t enforce the injunction against Apple’s 3G-based products until an appeal on the matter is held, a process which might take up to a year, and perhaps more.
For a brief period, following the initial injunction, Apple removed the iPhone and iPad from its online store before that itself was lifted.
As we’ve discussed before, the 3G patents at issue are all part of technological standards, which means that Motorola is obligated to license the technology to Apple on fair and reasonable terms.
FOSS Patents reports:
The appeals court summarily held that Apple has made an amended proposal for taking a license to MMI’s patents on FRAND terms that should be acceptable to MMI, turning any further attempts to ban Apple’s iPhone and iPad products into a violation of applicable antitrust law.
Indeed, many of the patent disputes Apple is currently entangled in involve patents that pertain to established technological standards, a situation which runs counter to the very notion and purpose of the establishing standards in the first place.
This is clearly a huge concern for Apple, and should be for the tech industry at large as well. Just a few weeks ago, Apple wrote a letter to the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) asking the body to construct more consistent royalty rates for patents subject to RAND licensing terms. After all, if companies can get their patented technology into a standard and then refuse to license said patents out on fair and reasonable terms, they effectively preclude any type of competition in the marketplace.
MMI is now in a tricky situation. The Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court has formally alerted it to the fact that its refusal to accept Apple’s offer — which from an antitrust point of view is now apparently too good to refuse — is a potential antitrust violation. By continuing not to accept Apple’s proposal, MMI risks consequences that could include fines from the European Commission.
Lastly, be aware that this ruling has nothing to do with the concurrent case involving Apple’s use of Motorola patents as part of its push notifications as it pertains to the mail app and iCloud.
Given all of the headaches Apple has gone through with regard to 3G patents, is it any wonder that the company paid $2 billion to be part of the consortium that ultimately paid $4.5 billion for 6,000 Nortell patents this past July? What’s more, Apple’s contribution reportedly netted it sole ownership of Nortel’s LTE patents.
A sound investment.