Apple beats Motorola in slide-to-unlock patent case

Apple has won a major patent case against Motorola in Germany that could theoretically take the latter company's Android smartphones off the shelves there, but Motorola claims it has worked around the patent in question and can therefore keep its handsets on sale.Apple was granted a permanent injunction by a Munich regional court on Thursday.

Apple has won a major patent case against Motorola in Germany that could theoretically take the latter company's Android smartphones off the shelves there, but Motorola claims it has worked around the patent in question and can therefore keep its handsets on sale.

Apple was granted a permanent injunction by a Munich regional court on Thursday. The ban is based on Motorola's apparent infringement of an Apple 'slide-to-unlock' patent, which covers a gesture used to easily unlock handsets.

Motorola's smartphones were found to be infringing on the patent, but its Xoom Android tablet was cleared of infringement, as its unlock mechanism involves a different kind of gesture.

Apple can now enforce the judgement if it posts a bond. However, according to a BBC report, Motorola intends to appeal the decision, and has also implemented a workaround that avoids infringing on Apple's patent.

"Motorola has implemented a new design for the feature. Therefore, we expect no impact on current supply or future sales," a Motorola spokeswoman was quoted as saying.

Patent observer Florian Mueller said Motorola could certainly keep selling its phones, but Apple had won a victory in forcing Motorola to "degrade" its user experience.

"[Motorola's non-infringing unlock gesture is] not very intuitive, and I don't think it can work well on typical smartphone screens. It remains to be seen what this workaround looks like," Mueller said.

Thursday's judgement was a rare win for Apple against Motorola, which is in the process of being bought by Google, the company behind the Android OS. Earlier this month, Motorola won a ban on Apple's iPhones and iPads in Germany, in a case that actually saw Apple remove its offending items from German shelves for a few hours, before it appealed.

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