Another development in the ongoing fight between Apple and Motorola Mobility over patent infringements in Germany: a court has decided against Apple Inc. in a case involving its push email service on iCloud and MobileMe services in the country. This is effectively an extension of the same ruling that was originally handed down in February against Apple International, a case that Apple is appealing.
A judge in a regional court in Mannheim, where the case was heard, has ordered Apple Inc. to pay damages, according to the Wall Street Journal. The exact value has not been specified.
Apple tells us it is appealing this case, based on the same points as the earlier one. In that case, Apple is appealing because it believes the patent in question — a patent (the ’654) that Motorola originally received in the 1990s around pager technology — is invalid. A spokesperson at the time of that earlier ruling dismissed it to me as an “old pager patent.” Since this case concerns the exact same patent, it is likely that Apple will also appeal in this newest case.
However, it’s important to remember that even if it seems easy to think that it’s crazy for a pager patent to be used in this case, this is not how patent law works: many patents revolve around generic ideas, used in hypothetical scenarios, and many times these are upheld. (Whether in this case the patent is invalid, of course, is another issue.)
The statement on today’s case from Apple: “This is the same case Motorola already brought against another Apple entity and the court’s decision does not impact product availability. Our customers in Germany should have no problem finding the iPad or iPhone they want. However, we disagree with the court’s decision and plan to appeal the ruling.”
As for why there are two different cases against Apple for the same thing: Florian Mueller, who was at the trial, noted Judge Voss explained that the Cupertino claims were separated from International because it took longer to serve the complaint(s) on Apple’s U.S. parent company than it did within Europe.
The push email function in iCloud and MobileMe is no longer in use in Germany — Apple had turned off the service back in February when the original decision was made — but it will have to pay damages to Motorola Mobility for the period when the service was operational.
At the time of the original decision, a spokesperson from Apple noted that that turning off the push email service affected a small (unspecified) number of users in the country. “This ruling only impacts customers in Germany who use a Push setting to get their MobileMe and iCloud email,” he said. “These customers will still receive email to their devices.”
Even so, as with other decisions made against Apple or others (like Samsung and Motorola) in these patent disputes, it is negative publicity for the companies in question, and cumulatively that can have damaging effects on the brand, if not actual unit sales.
However, even in some cases, these disputes can affect sales, too. Samsung effectively missed out on selling the 10.1-inch version of its Android-based Galaxy Tab in the crucial holiday period after a series of voluntary delayed launches and then court-enforced delays around a patent dispute with Apple in Australia, a strong market for Samsung.
Separately, there was a second case raised in court today, over a radio patent that Apple claims is standard-essential (and should be licensed under “FRAND” terms) and Motorola is claiming straight infringement. That case is more serious in that it could ultimately mean injunctions on iPhone and iPad devices if it goes against Apple. That case is still ongoing.
[Image: xcode, Flickr]