Apple sues Motorola over tech used in Android phones

The iPhone maker has accused Motorola of infringing on six patents, in the latest stage of a war over the technology used in Android handsets

Apple has sued Motorola for infringement of six patents, most of which relate to user-interface technology featured in the iPhone and other touchscreen smartphones.

The iPhone maker filed two complaints (first complaint, second complaint [PDFs]) in the US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin on Friday, alleging that Motorola is infringing on the patents with a number of its phones. These include the Droid, Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq, Cliq XT, BackFlip, Devour A555, Devour i1 and Charm — all of which are Android handsets.

All but one of the patents involved in the latest suit (patent number 5,379,430, for an 'object-oriented system locator system') directly cover touchscreen and multi-touch technology. Of those five, one (patent number 7,497,949, for 'touchscreen device, method and graphical user interface for determining commands by applying heuristics'), has already been used by Apple in a legal attack on HTC, another Android phone manufacturer.

Apple wants a jury to stop Motorola from continuing to use the technology in question and to award it treble damages plus its legal costs. This suit follows legal action launched by Motorola against Apple in early October over 18 Motorola patents that Apple is alleged to have infringed.

In addition, Apple sued HTC in March over 20 iPhone-related patents. However, on 18 October, Motorola launched a pre-emptive strike against Apple, asking a court to invalidate a dozen of the patents used by Apple against HTC because of 'prior art' — which is to say, the patents described technology that was already in use by others before the patents were granted.

Apart from the 7,497,949 patent, Apple has not yet sued Motorola regarding any of the patents it has asserted against HTC.

Motorola said on Monday that it had not reviewed Apple's claims against it and would therefore not comment yet.

"With that said, Motorola has a leading intellectual-property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this matter," the company said in a statement. "We are confident in our position and will pursue our litigation to halt Apple's continued infringement."

Apple is not the first company to sue Motorola for patent infringement related to its Android phones, as Microsoft asserted nine patents against Motorola at the start of October.

On Thursday, Motorola's mobile division posted its first operating profit in three years, largely due to its sales of Android devices.

The various legal battles between Apple, Motorola, HTC and Microsoft mainly concern the hardware side of Android phones. More fundamental courtroom conflicts over the underlying Java-based Android code involving Oracle and Google are also raging. Last Monday, the Dutch security company Gemalto also sued Google, Samsung and HTC over Android's use of Java.


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