Motorola devices could be banned in Germany after it loses patent fight

Motorola devices could be banned in Germany after it loses patent fight

Summary: A local court in the country has found that some Moto handsets infringe a manufacturing process.

TOPICS: Mobility, Legal, Patents, EU

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.

Everyday business

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."

Read more on Motorola

Topics: Mobility, Legal, Patents, EU

Michael Filtz

About Michael Filtz

From the day he brought home a modem and dialed in to a local BBS in 1991, Michael has been obsessed with technology and how it enables collaboration. He has a master's degree in journalism from UC Berkeley, and has worked in and around the technology start-up scenes in San Francisco and Berlin.

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  • Bummer...

    I do love the Moto G, it's a great device. And usually I find these patent claims absolutely ridiculous. "Your phone has the same basic shape as ours! We patented rectangles you thieving bastards!!" Really...?
    But in this case it's about actual technology that they probably invested quite a lot of money into. In my eyes that is a legitimate patent claim, and I don't say that with bias since I am German.
    • Alternate Views

      If someone patents a shape, meaning a patent is granted as per law, the problem isn't companies exercising their rights, but the law. In defense of design patents, when getting to specifics, I see a benefit to the consumer and manufacturer for allowing Gibson guitars to protect the shape of the Les Paul, SG, Flying V, etc.

      In this case, a company is potentially losing access to a market because a vendor infringed, except, the courts where the infringement occurred said there was no infringement. Now everyone who uses an independent manufacturer has to worry that there's a court somewhere that will rule infringement based on any patent. Again, the problem isn't LPKF pursuing its rights, it's that patent law allows for infringement by makers, sellers, and users of a thing that falls in the realm of patent law. To insert some perspective, this is a decision in Germany using that nation's and the EU's laws. I think it's safe to say that it injects costs and uncertainty into the system, especially as indemnification, the usual approach to protecting a customer in a contract, doesn't help when the remedy is blocking all sales.
      • Android View

        Obviously a fAndroid. No one else looks upon the Touch phone suits like patenting a rectangle except for those simpletons.

        The actual production of the first touch screen phone involved many technologies and original design ideas, and only a fAndroid would fail to see any of them, and credit the alignment technique for a multi-layer circuit board as the more technically adept challenge.

        The original iPhone was a Macintosh shrunk down to something the size of a deck of cards -- not some 32K plaything decked with buttons running mobile-java (which is what Android was before the iPhone's appearance).

        And anyone who doesn't look back and imagine Google Labs - an outfit which really has never designed ANY cutting-edge consumer hardware - as being something other than a bunch of workbenches and microscopes and cut up iPhones and ROM readers is not being realistic.

        After all, this was something totally new in the world, and you couldn't just read a book on it. You had to buy a few, take them apart, and try to figure out what made them tick.
  • patents

    It may be a bummer to some, but if the company who used a patented process without license, then the only protection for the patent holder is to cause the product to be withdrawn. If Motorola ignores the court order they might never sell anything in the EU again. And their EU assets could be seized. Motorola needs to think carefully here.