updated 08:30 pm EDT, Fri November 4, 2011
Mannheim court ruling may see Motorola trump Apple
(Update: Apple says there is no issue) Motorola may have obtained a quiet victory over Apple in a Mannheim, Germany regional court through a patent-related product ban. The as-yet unverified verdict (below) would give a default judgment that Apple violated two European patents, one for a countdown during a mobile device transfer and another for a status sync system. The claim doesn't say which exact devices might be in violation.
The terms constitute a preliminary ban and would hold unless Apple overturned the ban on appeal. It may not be an absolute ban, since the case might not have been decided in such a way as to decide whether anyone outside of Apple was barred from selling the products.
Apple might have failed to respond on time and led the judge to grant the default judgment. Its move might be strategic, however: German law lets Apple present its full defense in any following hearings where some of it might have been excluded if submitted before the deadline. Allowing a ban in a major European country would be a major setback, however, and it would be odd for Apple to willingly sacrifice sales.
The copy of the ruling came under unusual circumstances. It was relayed indirectly rather directly from the court. Accurate formatting and the legal consequences make such a prank unlikely. Apple and Motorola have been contacted, although the weekend meant they weren't likely to respond before Monday.
Apple and Motorola have been engaged in a series of pitched battles worldwide, with Apple hoping to take down an Android rival. Apple might be counting on winning other lawsuits in Europe as a bargaining chip until it either wins or is forced into a deal to keep its products on shelves.
The ban would be a rare one for an Apple competitor. HTC was found infringing Apple patents in the US and has lost at least one of its responses. Samsung, so far, has faced at least preliminary bans for the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in Australia and Germany, and for a time was barred from selling some of its Galaxy smartphones in the Netherlands until it modified its Android implementation. Samsung has recently lost attempts at fighting back as well and had its Dutch case over 3G dropped altogether. [via Florian Mueller]
Update: Apple calls the ruling a technical point and says it doesn't impede the company's ability to sell products.
"This is a procedural issue, and has nothing to do with the merits of the case," Apple said in a statement. "It does not affect our ability to sell products or do business in Germany at this time."