Motorola Wins Legal Victory Over Apple in Germany, Impact Disputed

Late Friday, FOSS Patents reported that Motorola Mobility had won an injunction against Apple in Germany, a decision that could potentially prevent Apple from selling any of its mobile devices in the country. Curiously, the injunction was issued as a default judgment, with Apple apparently deciding not to defend itself for unknown reasons.

motorola mobility logo wordmark
The strange circumstances have led to some dispute over whether the injunction will have any impact on Apple's operations in Germany, with The Verge's Nilay Patel arguing that the victory is a "totally symbolic" one for Motorola given that it affects only Apple Inc. and not its Apple Germany subsidiary that actually sells the devices in that country.

Motorola Mobility filed lawsuits against both organizations, and while Apple Germany is vigorously fighting its case, Apple's lawyers let the Apple Inc., lawsuit slide, resulting in this default judgement and injunction. But since Apple Inc., doesn't actually sell anything in Germany, it's a totally symbolic victory for Motorola — there aren't any products to ban.

Apple itself also took an apparently unconcerned attitude toward the ruling, noting that it fails to impact the company's sales "at this time".

This is a procedural issue that has nothing to do with the merits of the case. This does not affect our ability to sell products or do business in Germany at this time.

Florian Mueller at FOSS Patents vehemently disagrees with Patel's interpretation, noting that there is danger to Apple if courts rule that the parent Apple Inc. company is judged to be an entity selling products in Germany. As one example, Mueller points to the fact that Apple's German website is registered to Apple Inc. and not Apple Germany, meaning that enforcement of the injunction could lead to Apple having to shut down its German website operations. Another example suggests that the injunction could simply prevent Apple Inc. from delivering shipments to Apple Germany, thereby cutting off sales further up the distribution chain without a direct judgment against Apple Germany.

Mueller argues that any restrictions on Apple Inc.'s ability to business in Germany will have an effect on the company's business there, even with actual sales being funneled through the Apple Germany subsidiary. Consequently, he believes that Apple will begin to feel an impact "within weeks" unless Apple wins a suspension of the injunction. In a follow-up post, Mueller notes that a number of German lawyers have indicated that Apple is likely to win such a suspension as the trials continue to play out, but that Apple will need to move quickly to appeal the verdict in order to minimize any impact from it.

All of the lawyers I talked to had consistent positions. In particular, all of them agree with me that the default judgment against Apple Inc. of Cupertino would have very near-term business impact unless Apple wins a suspension. They all agree that in one way or another, Apple's German business also depends on Apple Inc. being unrestricted to do business in Germany. And they all concur that Apple is more likely than not to win a temporary suspension (for the period until a substantive decision following a second hearing by the same court). "More likely than not" is a conservative consensus position. An unnamed one of them told me he can't imagine any other outcome.

As for why Apple allowed the default judgment to be made in Motorola's favor, Mueller puts forward an array of theories, from Apple's lawyers simply missing the court date for some reason to strategic plans to either draw out the case or to preserve the ability to introduce certain new evidence. With so many other cases and investigations relating to Apple's intellectual property disputes, it can be difficult to determine how a move in one case could affect other events, similarly hampering the ability to understand Apple's rationale.

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Top Rated Comments

Hellhammer Avatar
164 months ago
Motorola Mobility = Google

Wasn't mentioned in the article, although it's a quite important detail.
Score: 18 Votes (Like | Disagree)
kenypowa Avatar
164 months ago
Hi Apple. Thanks for playing with fire. What comes around goes around. Motorola didn't sue you first, neither did HTC or Samsung. A cutting edge smart phone has probably 250,000 patents involved, and I doubt you didn't infringe any one of those.
Score: 14 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Tarzanman Avatar
164 months ago
The hypocrisy of some of these comments boggle the mind

Apple Fan after Apple litigation: Motorola/Samsung copied Apple's appearance! They shouldn't be allowed to do that! Apple should sue them until Motorola/Samsung can't sell competing products.

Apple Fan after Moto litigation: Apple copied Motorola's technology! Leave Apple alone because they need that technology to make devices. Motorola should be fair to Apple because not allowing them to use their technology isn't right.


Reading that, its not hard to see why a lot of us are sickened by Apple's approach. They use other people's tech all the time, but turn around and sue other people who follow industry standards. They are a bunch of trolls and I hope Google/Moto/Samsung/Microsoft makes them a minority player again in the coming decade as they were in the 80's and 90's.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
iCrizzo Avatar
164 months ago
I'm curious as to what would happen if nobody in Germany could purchase Apple products. There's a part of me that WANTS to see a widespread revolt against Motorola. There's nothing like a few angry mobs to get someone's full-blown attention.
Why would you revolt against Motorola? If Apple is violating Moto's patents then Motorola has every right to defend its property. I do not have to agree with what Motorola is doing, but I do respect it the same way I respect Apple for going after other companies that violate Apple's patents.
Score: 12 Votes (Like | Disagree)
samcraig Avatar
164 months ago
Curiously, the injunction was issued as a default judgment, with Apple apparently deciding not to defend itself for unknown reasons.

As for why Apple allowed the default judgment to be made in Motorola's favor

-------------------------------------------

That's the key.

There's more to this than what the headline suggests.

Don't forget that the most cagey tech company in court is Apple. Plans within plans within plans.




Makes one wonder what Tim Cook et al have up their sleeve. This was planned.

Indeed - but also wonder what is up Motorola's sleeve since they brought on the lawsuit knowing Apple doesn't sell there.

It could be to set a precedent.
Score: 9 Votes (Like | Disagree)
BeardedOrc Avatar
164 months ago
I think you only post to joke, it's impossible that you believe the things you write
*LTD* speaks the truth. Some (like you) call them crazy, others (like me) see genius. Jobs said that. And it never rang so true here.
In fact, I heard LTD was awarded 1,000,000 Apple stock options if he continuous to spread Jobs distortion field here in MacRumors 'til 2015!!!
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)