Motorola is suing Apple for patent infringement, filing a complaint with the US International Trade Commission (ITC) which alleges that Apple’s iPhone, iPad, iTouch and “certain Mac computers” infringe Motorola patents, and launching similar legal actions in Illinois and Florida. The company has called on the ITC to investigate Apple’s use of Motorola patents and, “among other things, issue an Exclusion Order barring Apple’s importation of infringing products, prohibiting further sales of infringing products that have already been imported, and halting the marketing, advertising, demonstration and warehousing of inventory for distribution and use of such imported products in the United States.”
In its District Court actions, it requested that Apple stops using its patented technology, and pays compensation for its infringements. Motorola says that its three complaints include 18 patents, which relate to “early stage innovations developed by Motorola in key technology areas found on many of Apple’s core products and associated services,” including its App Store and MobileMe services. They also cover wireless communications standards including WCDMA, GPRS, Wi-Fi and antenna design, and “key smartphone technologies” including wireless email, proximity sensing, software application management, location-based services, and multi-device synchronisation.
Motorola’s action comes days after the company found itself at the centre of a legal action, this time initiated by Microsoft, which says that Motorola’s Android devices infringe its smartphone patents. Apple is also at the centre of a number of reciprocal legal actions with Nokia, with both companies alleging patent infringements by the rival. Apple is also taking legal action against HTC.
The main issue driving the actions is that as devices become more complex, the number of possible patent holders increases significantly. For example, Motorola and Nokia have both trumpeted their heritage in the mobile space, with Motorola stating that it 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”. In contrast, Apple and Microsoft are both strong in device software and value-added service development, which has become increasingly important as the volume of smartphone shipments increase sharply. Google and Oracle are embroiled in a legal dispute over the use of Java in Android, while companies from related industries have also been active – Kodak, for example, in the digital imaging space.