In a decision that may result in Motorola handsets being banned in Germany, a local court has ruled this week against the handset maker a patent dispute.
The Mannheim Regional Court ruled this week that the manufacturing of some Motorola phones — including the Moto G and the Moto X among others — used a process called "laser direct structuring", and that this process is patented by LPKF, a Germany-based laser and electronics company.
According to a statement from LPKF, the court ordered that Motorola refrain from selling patent-infringing phones in Germany. Furthermore, Motorola must recall all patent-infringing phones from commercial customers, and the company also must pay LPKF compensation.
However, in a statement from Motorola, a spokesperson said that the company "has taken steps to avoid any interruption in supply."
Laser direct structuring is a process in which circuit layouts are printed on three-dimensional structures. The process is used in a variety of applications, including healthcare devices and automotive electronic systems, and also for manufacturing mobile phone antennas.
This week's ruling is good news for a company that has been grappling with the complex realities of protecting intellectual property in a highly competitive industry. Last year, LPKF disputed the patent in a court in China, where many of the world's smartphones are manufactured, and where it hoped to establish precedent right at the source, so to speak.
However, the Chinese court ruled against LPKF both initially and then in an appeal. At that time, LPKF contended that while the selling of devices using the technology without compensation may be legal in China — the company referred to these as "counterfeit" devices — since most of the infringing phones were produced for export, it would continue to litigate to protect the patent outside of the country.
With the recent ruling in Germany, this strategy shift seems successful, so far (an appeal is possible; Motorola did not respond to requests for comment). In any case, LPKF's CEO was happy with the ruling: "The more attractive a patent is, the harder you have to work to defend it," he said.
"We will continue to fight for our patent in China and systematically take action against infringers outside China. This is part and parcel of a technology company's everyday business."