Google attempts to get iPhone, iPad, and Mac banned from the USA by filing a patent claim against Apple with the ITC

Do No Evil. Tell that to the little boys and girls and grandmas who might miss out on their shiny new iDevice thanks to the latest happenings in patent wars. Google, through its newly acquired subsidiary Motorola Mobility, has filed a patent claim against Apple in the International Trade Commission alleging Apple’s products infringe on seven of Motorola’s patents. The end goal of this complaint is a ban on the import of iPhones, iPads, and Macs into the United States. (Apple products are manufactured in Asia, mainly China, and must be imported into the United States, despite Apple being an American company. Hence they are vulnerable to import bans.)

Motorola, or Google for that matter, didn’t provide very many details on exactly which patents it is out to protect aside from mentioning the patents relate to features such as “location reminders, e-mail notification, and phone/video players”. However, Motorola was quick to point out that it first tried to reach a license agreement with Apple and is only resorting to this filing as a last resort after talks failed:

We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations.

It is worth mentioning that the patents Motorola is asserting this time around are not industry standards, so they aren’t governed by the same “fair licensing” rules some of Motorola’s other patents are. In other words, Motorola doesn’t have to license them to anyone for any price, if it doesn’t want to, although Motorola is obviously trying to put the blame on Apple by saying Motorola tried to license the patents but Apple was uncooperative.

For its part, Apple claims Motorola is being making “unreasonable” demands. You know, maybe demands like the $30-$40 per device royalty Apple asked of Samsung in 2010.

While Motorola is the attack dog in this particular case, it is pretty clear to any third-party observer Google is the real master here. Yes, Google does claim Motorola is being run as an independent company but it is highly doubtful Google had absolute no say in Motorola’s decision to file a claim against Apple. Some people, like myself, feel Google is simply giving Apple a piece of its own medicine. However, it is a valid point that until now Google has primarily stayed out of these patent wars and, historically speaking, never goes on the patent offensive. Maybe Google execs feel Apple has backed them into a corner and it is time to fight back. Or maybe Google has gone over to the dark side. Who knows. Let’s see what happens.

[via Bloomberg | Image via unknown]

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15 comments

  1. Mike

    @Art Kns: On the patent front, yep, the system needs fixing–patents have been given out on some technologies where this never should have occurred. And while a patent can be attacked at court, as is happening with Apple-Samsung, who really can afford that (or should have to)? And think of all the better things that the money could be used for.

    My favorite example of all time: someone got a patent on how to pick up a box–yep, you’re right, the patent explains that one should bend one’s knees. Yes, a patent actually was issued on that . . . .

  2. Mike

    @Art Kns: Yep, you are right, to a degree, as to the earlier Apple-reporter-police incident; but no one broke anyone’s door down–the Apple investigators showed up at the reporter’s house with the police in tow, and were let in by the reporter, who almost assuredly felt pressured to let them in, thinking that he had to. Of course, this shouldn’t have happened; it was investigated, but I never heard anything about the results of that.

    But note: that was the police, not a judge and the court; things at court are much more transparent (as opposed to the police showing up at your door) and anyone generally may watch proceedings at court, read court filings, and report on them; and the results at court are easily appealable. Also, with all due respect to state courts, the Apple-Samsung trial is occurring at federal (U.S.) court, which has established a positive reputation over many, many decades.

    The specific court here, the court for the Northern District of California, is highly regarded nationally, and routinely adjudicates high-tech. cases, often involving non-U.S. individuals and companies. The Apple-Samsung court, sitting in the midst of Silicon Valley in San Jose, California, also is in a very diverse region, ethnically and otherwise.

    If one wanted to assume anything here, one might have wondered about the judge here, Judge Lucy Koh (do you have a feeling for where I am going?), who is of Korean background, and how that could affect a presumed “automatic bias” in favor of U.S.-based Apple as against South Korea-based Samsung; if one wanted to assume anything, I am surprised that some people would not have said that the judge would be biased the other way. Of course, there is no factually-based reason to assume any bias in any direction, and every reason to assume there is none; the judge is very well-credentialed from her job history and has a good reputation.

  3. Art Kns

    Apple is getting its just deserts. A lot of Motorola’s filing is word-for-word copy or paraphrase of Apple’s filing against Samsung. Maybe some lawyers have a sense of humor after all.

    Apple is also a blatant hypocrite:

    They stole the mouse idea from SRI/Xerox PARC

    They stole the GUI idea from GEM [for you youngsters, GEM developed their GUI back in the 80s. It ran under MSDOS on 24 x 80 text based monitors which was all that was available.]

    They stole the multi-touch technology from Jeff Han, a genius engineer in NY, but who obviously could not fight the patent lawyers of the Apple juggernaut. Even then, the best that Apple could do was two finger touch, not true multi-touch.

    They certainly were not first with the smart phone idea: Nokia had a working prototype long before Apple started on the iPhone. Unfortunately, Nokia thought it owned the mobile phone market and saw no need to market a smart phone. Ref:

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702304388004577531002591315494.html?mod=WSJ_hpp_LEFTTopStories

    The US patent system is ludicrous. IIRC, some years ago Bank of America was patenting (as a business algorithm), the idea of rounding up your monthly payment to the next dollar and pay off your loan quicker. That is beyond ridiculous!

  4. Art Kns

    @Mike:

    Case in point: A couple of years ago when the apple employee “lost” his prototype iPhone, the police broke down the door and raided the reporter’s house, totally against constitutional rights and accompanied by apple employees intimidated to be policemen. Apple not only owns the judges but the police dept as well.

  5. Horrabin

    I think Apple’s getting just whatever distraction and harassment they deserve by this. For too long they have been doing suing blitzes, at everyone and everything that’s not Apple, trying to cripple competition. It’s costing every one of us money. If nothing else, our pockets bleed money to all the lawyers involved because someone has to pay them and like any other cost, it gets passed on to the consumer. They likely do have some patent infringements that may lead to legitimate cases in court, but it’s obvious to anyone reading the news that much of it isn’t. Steve Jobs’ antipathy toward Google, and by extension Samsung, et al, who make devices running Google OSes, was well known. Cook continues this. I don’t recall many patents suits brought against Apple out of the blue sky; the ones I’ve seen publicized main were retaliatory. If Apple gets taken down peg once in a while it might cause them to back off a bit and leave everyone free to get down to business. After all, much of this was directly ripped from Star Trek (personal communicators, pads, voice computing, even laser weapons and other beam technology ideas). The studios aren’t suing everyone in sight. This is technology and innovation, not kids’ wars on the playground. These are phones and pads. They all have to have many common operations and designs to BE phones and pads. Now, maybe an amoeba-shaped flexible telepathy-operated device, on the other hand….

  6. Mike

    @Ashraf: From what I constantly am hearing, your comment about paying off lawmakers, at least via lobbying efforts, is not far off the mark.

    As to checks and balances in the legal system, especially in the federal judicial system, yes, it really does work. Does the court sometimes get it wrong, all the way to the top? Yes. But as a result of something nepharious? Rarely (although sometimes infamously).

  7. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @Mike: While I disagree with your assertion that too many checks and balances and appeals prevent abuse of the US judicial system, I do agree that just bashing the US judicial system for the sake of bashing the US judicial system should be avoided because it doesn’t accomplish anything.
    And I agree with you. If Apple is ruled against, and they lose on appeal, they will likely just agree to license from Motorola. Either that or remove the infringing features. My comment about paying off lawmakers was a joke. :-)

  8. Mike

    I wish those of you bashing the U.S. and its judges as wrongfully favoring Apple would either put up or just plain be quiet. No one here or in similar threads, making such assertions, has had any proof–just nasty, and defamatory, insinuation. And I can tell you that as a general matter, things don’t typically work that way, at least here in the U.S. (and especially in a federal court of some type, where these cases typically are). There are too many checks and balances, and appeals, and high-profile cases just put more pressure on to just get it right. But if you have any evidence, as vs. insinuation, otherwise, put it up . . . .

    But turning to the merits of what’s happening here to Apple, as it’s finding out, what’s good for the goose is also good for the gander. And no product will be banned–if Motorola prevails (either to the end at the ITC or through pressure), Cupertino just will be paying a hefty license fee, what Motorola says it has been trying to get.

  9. Ashraf
    Author/Mr. Boss

    @J_L: I highly doubt iPhone/iPad will be banned from the US for very long, if at all. There is no guarantee Motorola will win the complaint and I’m sure Apple would have contingency plans in place in case Motorola does win. Worst comes worst, a few billion at lawmakers could surely get a few laws change. ;-)