Motorola wins iCloud injunction in Germany, forces Apple to pull some iPhones, iPads

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It’s been a big day for Motorola in its legal battles with Apple—at least in Germany. The Mannheim Regional Court has granted Motorola a permanent injunction on the push email service of Apple’s iCloud services—the injunction would also apply to iCloud’s predecessor, MobileMe. Motorola’s complaint dates all the way back to April 2011, and, unfortunately for Apple, the injunction is a permanent one, not a preliminary decision. However, the ruling only applies to Apple’s European sales subsidiary (Apple Sales International, based in Ireland) and push email services in Germany. No other iCloud services are impacted.

The immediate effects of the injunction aren’t clear. In order to force Apple to shut down iCloud’s push email service in Germany, Motorola must demand the injunction be enforced. Meanwhile, Apple is certain to appeal the decision to a higher court. If Motorola were to demand the injunction be enforced and later lost the infringement case on appeal, it would be liable to Apple for damages. As a result, Motorola will likely be forced to post a substantial bond if it wants the injunction enforced; in the meantime, Apple will likely be able to continue operating iCloud as-is.

Push email services automatically notify mobile devices when new messages are available, rather than requiring users run an email client and check for messages.

In a second win for Motorola—and the fact these landed on the same day appears to be a coincidence—Apple has stopped online sales of older models of the iPhone (the iPhone 4 and iPhone 3GS) as well as its 3G-based iPads in Germany, in response to an injunction won by Motorola last December. Although individual retailers are still able to sell the items—and reports have Apple still offering the items for sale at its own retail stores in Germany—Apple’s German online store lists the products as “currently not available.” Apple has apparently won a temporary suspension of the injunction and will resume selling the items in its German online store soon.

Apple’s current iPhone 4S remains on sale in Germany, as do WiFi-only iPads. The sales ban appears to be temporary.

A German regional court in Mannheim ruled on December 9 that Apple’s European sales subsidiary Apple Sales International had to stop selling devices that allegedly infringe on Motorola patents covering particular 3G technology. As part of 3G standards, Motorola is obligated to make the patents available on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms to anyone who wants to use them. Apple and Motorola have been in discussions about licensing the patents since 2007; Apple has offered to license them under FRAND terms while reserving the right to challenge the validity of the patents later. It turns out that in the Mannheim jurisdiction, that’s not enough: Apple would have had to put up a bond and make the licensing offer irrevocable. Motorola is not just demanding Apple pay to get up-to-date on its licenses, but is also seeking penalties for all the time Apple has been using 3G technologies without paying the Motorola licenses.

Since Apple is challenging the patents, Motorola had to put up roughly €100 million (over US$130 million) as bond to pay for damages to Apple for enforcing the injunction in the event its patents are eventually overturned.

Apple is appealing the 3G technology Mannheim ruling, claiming Motorola has consistently refused to license the patents to Apple under FRAND terms.

The patent battle with Motorola is just one of several high-profile cases involving Apple: the company is also involved in a worldwide patent infringement battle with South Korea’s Samsung, as well as Taiwan’s HTC.