And so, the idiocy in the mobile industry continues. Motorola has just upped the ante in this already ridiculous spider web of lawsuits by suing the pants off Apple. Eighteen patents are involved, most of which seem to be actual hardware patents, but that doesn’t make some of them any less obvious (apparently, you can patent the location of your antenna). Anywho, like Nokia, Motorola claims that Apple is unwilling to license Motorola’s patents, and as such, suing was the only option.
Motorola is utterly fashionable on the lawsuit catwalk, filing several complaints at the US International Trade Commission, accompanied by infringement lawsuits covering a total of eighteen patents. Most of them appear to be hardware patents, which makes it slightly more palatable than, say, Microsoft’s and Apple’s suits which focus solely on software patents.
The patents cover wireless communication technologies like WCDMA (3G), GPRS, 802.11 and antenna design, as well as smartphone technologies like wireless email, proximity sensing, software application management, location-based services, and multi-device synchronization.
“Motorola has innovated and patented throughout every cycle of the telecommunications industry evolution, from Motorola’s invention of the cell phone to its development of premier smartphone products. We have extensively licensed our industry-leading intellectual property portfolio, consisting of tens of thousands of patents in the U.S. and worldwide,” said Kirk Dailey, corporate vice president of intellectual property at Motorola Mobility, “After Apple’s late entry into the telecommunications market, we engaged in lengthy negotiations, but Apple has refused to take a license. We had no choice but to file these complaints to halt Apple’s continued infringement. Motorola will continue to take all necessary steps to protect its R&D and intellectual property, which are critical to the company’s business.”
I am slightly milder towards companies like Nokia and Motorola (compared to, say, Microsoft and Apple), because these two have genuinely helped develop and create the hardware backbone of mobile telephony, a true gift to the world that has made the lives of many people easier and safer – it’s an invention that truly changed the world, contrary to, say, coming up with slide to unlock or some other idiotic software patent.
Like with Nokia, it would seem that Apple was unwilling to pay for licensing Motorola’s patents. Still, it is important to note that in the Nokia case, it is said that Nokia wanted access to Apple’s patent portfolio in return – it could be that Motorola was asking for the same thing. I guess both of them are coming from a world where licensing each other’s patents is perfectly normal, while Apple comes from its own world where nobody gets access to its patents – but it does want access to everyone else’s, and if it doesn’t get it and gets sued accordingly, it always has its army of followers to claim that it’s okay for Apple to disregard the broken patent system, but not for anybody else.
The bad thing for Apple is that both the Nokia and Motorola patents are part of numerous patent licensing deals all over the globe, and as such, most likely have a far stronger initial position than a bunch of relatively new software patents. Then again, the US patent system is about as effective and fair as Zapp Brannigan, so this stuff could go either way.
So, what does the mobile legal landscape look like? Well… It ain’t pretty.
As you can clearly see, the patent system is totally working.