I wonder if Apple is beginning to regret its world-wide war on Android and Samsung? After all, Apple's just been hit in the chops by a German court injunction that blocks the sale of all iPhones and iPads in the European Union.
In yet another chapter in the mobile patent wars, this time around Android-power Motorola Mobility, soon to belong to Google, used a patent to smash the competition. Considering how Apple is using design and software patents to try to crush its rivals, I have to say I don't think it could happen to a nicer company.
That said, the patent in question, Method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system is another perfect of a stupid software patent. Just like Apple is trying to block anyone from creating a phone or tablet that's rectangular in shape because it would breech their "unique" designs, this bit of intellectual property (IP) blackmail material has nothing unique about it.
Read U.S. Patent No. 6,359,898 and its European Union equivalent, EP1010336 (B1) ? 2003-03-19 for yourself. It describes a way to perform a countdown function over a 3G connection. You know, "Ten seconds to complete your download, three, two, one, download complete."
Oh yeah, that's a unique idea alright.
You may also be wondering what in the world about a countdown mechanism is so essential to a mobile device, any mobile device, that a court would rule that Apple can't sell any iPhones or iPads because of a violation. Apple wonders that too, which is why they're fighting this particular patent with a Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory terms (FRAND) defense (PDF Link). The core argument in this defense is that this feature isn't essential to 3G mobile telephony. That makes sense to me, but the German court didn't buy it.
This, of course, is far from the end of the story. Apple will appeal. The two companies will go back and forth in the courts, and at day's end all that will happen is you won't be able to buy Apple iPhones and iPads for a while in Europe. Oh, and, of course, no matter what smartphone or tablet you use in any country, you'll pay more for them because fighting IP lawsuits around the world doesn't come cheap.
Here's a suggestion: Tim Cook, Apple's new CEO, should get on the phone to Google and Samsung's top brass and invite them to have a little talk about agreeing to compete from now on in the market place rather than in the court room and may be best product win. I mean, come on, we now know that Apple doesn't even see Samsung as a threat to its business! So, why exactly are we going through this anyway?