A court in Mannheim, Germany today held a preliminary hearing in a patent dispute between Motorola Mobility and Apple Sales International (a European Apple distribution subsidiary), and it seems like Apple's on the ropes.

While the hearing didn't discuss the particular merits of Motorola's patent infringement claim against Apple, the presiding judge issued substantial blows to Apple's defense by indicating that he believed the patent-in-suit was ripe for trial. The judge also seemed to agree with Motorola's reading of that patent (also known as "construction claims") in important ways that would allow it a broader scope of applicability at trial.

The judge did not seem interested in many of Apple's defenses, such as Motorola's claim lacking specificity, the patent in question being invalid, or that the patent should be construed more narrowly.

What's the patent? While I can only speak to its US equivalent, it's a particular method by which a pager (yep - this patent was filed in 1995) synchronizes the user's settings across all of that user's pager devices utilizing a backend server to communicate the changes. The patent contains references to calendars, alarms, rolodexes, and acquaintances - basically, contact and calendar sync. Given that Motorola Android smartphones have their own proprietary sync and backup app, it's quite possible that this app is in some way based on technology described in this patent.

Motorola asserts that Apple's iCloud (and formerly MobileMe) utilize the method described in this patent to synchronize information across devices. While Motorola's patent was described in the context of a pager, the actually claims in the patent use the word "transceiver" - which could be pretty much any electronic device capable of receiving wireless communications.

It's likely this patent is involved in Motorola's ongoing countersuit against Apple here in the U.S., but most documents in that case have been filed under seal.

Apple requested a $2.7 billion "bail" from Motorola that Apple would receive in the event that an injunction granted in favor of Motorola is overturned on appeal. The trial is scheduled for February next year.


David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Matt

    stick it to them

    • http://tweets.residentkennedy.com Resident Kennedy

      Big UPS to Matt (and Motorola/Googs)

  • jason

    When is this going to end! I love my android and apple make great products (I loved my iPod when I used it many eons ago) can't we all just get along? ;p

    • http://tweets.residentkennedy.com Resident Kennedy

      It'll never end Jason, frankly i couldn't give a toss who sues whom. lol

      They all put out good product, else they wouldn't be as popular as they are. =)

      It is a tad like "tag team wrestling" tho', and THAT's the fun part.

      "From the sublime to the meticulous" ;-)

      #residentkennedy #motorola #google #apple

      • Dan

        I love this! RK nailed it on the head. It's corporate Lucha Libre and it's a lot of fun to watch.

    • MicroNix

      Apple started it and I knew with all the various patents that Android phone manufacturers hold (particularly Motorola) that Apple would not be the one to end it. Apple is the newbie in the cell phone world. It appears Apple is using stolen cell phone technology and I hope all Android manufacturers use all the money in the bank to right this wrong :)

  • skitchbeatz

    all I can say is LoL

  • Freak4Dell

    I hope more and more of these suits come up and Apple is dealt a blow in every one. Apple should have kept their mouths shut instead of suing everyone around them. Now they're seeing that other companies aren't just going to lie there and take it.

  • lukeap69

    A dose of their own medicine?

  • Tyler C

    Scumbag Apple, gets sue-happy.
    Litigation and hilarity ensue.

  • Jason

    I can see some kind of M.A.D ( Mutual assured destruction) happening

  • Jay

    Apple may regret ever starting the patent wars with Android phone manufacturers.In the end only the lawyers on both sides will have wins.

  • JPB

    I'll bet this little patent is why Google bought Motorola in the first place.

  • Pawnty

    Woot go Motorola! bout time Apple got a taste of their own medicine.

  • Ryan S

    This is hilarious. In the end the result is basically that Germany is going to only get crippled devices that are hacked to pieces to not violate patents.

    It sounds like it could hurt apple more since cloud syncing its the one HHHHHHHHHHUUUUUGGGGGGGGEEEEEEEE thing that put me onto android in the first place, without iCloud the Iphone wasnt even in my short list. I would bet that would be a huge selling point in the future as connecting your phone to a computer to back it up seems soo 2001.

    The suits against Samsung were basically design and it looks like they found an easy workaround. So the Android devices are less modified/crippled than the apple ones would have to be.