Motorola Mobility faces Android phones, tablets recall in Germany

Motorola Mobility faces Android phones, tablets recall in Germany

Summary: Apple won another patent victory against Google in Germany. Now the technology giant has options: have all Motorola's Android devices banned, destroy infringing devices, or have them recalled.

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TOPICS: Android, Apple, Patents, EU
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A Munich court said yesterday that Google-owned Motorola Mobility must recall every Android smartphone and tablet it sold in Germany which infringe an Apple-owned patent, reports The Guardian.

Screen Shot 2012-09-14 at 11.15.21
Motorola Droid Razr Maxx. Credit: CNET

Apple won a victory yesterday in the German court over a 'rubber-banding' patent that was key to the Cupertino, CA.-based technology giant's billion-dollar victory against Samsung last month in a U.S. court.

The EU Patent No. EP2126678 and U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, described as a "list scrolling and document translation, scaling, and rotation on a touch-screen display" patent, effectively allows a page on a browser or application to bounce back once a user has scrolled to the bottom or the top of the screen. 

But Apple can now, depending on how much cash it wants to splurge out, decide on a number of options: it can either post a €25 million ($32m) bond to enforce a ban which could be overturned through lengthy appeals, add €10 million ($13m) on top of that to force Motorola to destroy infringing devices, or add another €10 million to force Motorola Mobility to recall all infringing devices.

Talk about being between a rock, a hard place, and a cliff edge.

Motorola's parent company Google is expected to appeal the decision while contesting the validity of the European patent with the European Patent Office. In the meantime, the decision appears to fall on Apple on how much it's willing to spend on the case.

As FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller notes:

Since [Motorola Mobility] doesn't have much market share in Germany, the immediate business impact of these decisions is asymmetrical to the impact of any ruling against Apple or Microsoft in this country. But the outcome of those cases shows that Android has far bigger patent infringement problems than any piece of computer software has ever had in the history of the industry, and this has many of Google's hardware partners profoundly concerned.

While the ban sounds minimalistic on Motorola Mobility's part, destroying the devices would prove painful for the smartphone maker. A recall, however, would also be damaging to the Google-owned division and likely incur heavy costs and cause embarrassment for the firm.

Topics: Android, Apple, Patents, EU

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47 comments
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  • It’s An Absolutely Trivial Patent

    It should be easy to send out an update patch to turn it off. It’s a completely trivial feature with no important function.

    In other words, just the sort of thing Apple would patent.

    By the way, I thought the EU didn’t allow software patents?
    ldo17
    • If it was so trivial and non functional...

      Why did Google blindly copy it?

      lack of innovative talent?
      Bruizer
      • Re: Why did Google blindly copy it?

        That's the point. Coming up with the same trivial, obvious idea independently is not a legally-acceptable defence against patent infringement. Why not?
        ldo17
        • Funny.

          It was so trivial that no one had ever thought of coming up with it until a decade later after Apple entered the smart phone space. Now it's considered trivial because Apple made it popular.

          btw: Google claim to have fixed this infringement with the release of Android 4.1 Jelly Bean. They've somehow managed to come up with a NEW method using glow instead of Apple's bouncy rubber band effect to show feedback when over-scrolling a list. I could think of a dozen different ways (new methods) that'll give the user feedback when over-scrolling. You don't have to copy everything Apple is doing.
          dave95.
          • too bad....

            Too bad you won't get 4.1 unless you buy a brand new $500+ phone. The largest part of the android market still consist's of android 2.3.x which contains these features. Buy a lower cost android phone and all you get is a version of android that will never be updated.
            Nate_K
          • Nice math

            350$ is now 500$+!

            Genius!
            Michael Alan Goff
          • OTA software update is all that's needed and...

            not for 4.1, but just to get rid of the rubberband effect and put in the blue glowing effect that was, btw, in Android 2.2.2.
            laequis
          • And since Google now manufactures phones (via Motorola)

            I'm sure they don't have a vested interest in taking care of customers, since that would take away potential business.
            Champ_Kind
          • For your information

            The glowing has been there since GB. Google has long ditched any bouncing scrolling thingy; it's OEMs that are copying it.
            15israellai
          • I'm tired of that argument

            Not having been used before the iPhone does not matter. The behavior is such that it is so simple that it is non-inventive.
            Melab
          • Fixed that for you.

            It was so trivial that no one had ever bothered to patent it until a decade later after Apple entered the smart phone space. Now it's considered trivial because Apple made it popular.
            Hazydave
          • Yeah but...

            It would be one thing if it offered additional functionality, but it's only purpose is aesthetic appeal. I definitely agree it shouldn't have been implemented (it certainly is Apple-esq and an obvious part of their trade dress), but it's something easily mended with a minor software update -- nothing that justifies a recall or ban.

            On a side note, I find it ridiculous and hypocritical when the tables are flipped and just as apparent copies of the Android system by Apple have are never addressed. I'm not talking little swirly loading bars or color schemes that do nothing for the product as a smart phone, but things that actually enhance user interaction -- like the superior Android notification system, widgets, the do-not-disturb feature, tab-sync from Chrome (now available on Safari), ect.

            I'm not saying Google is innocent of implementing features Apple implemented first, either -- I'm primarily critiquing the stupidity of the black and white, good vs evil comparison of the two companies. They're both guilty -- and we as consumers actually benefit because of it.
            Beavz0r
          • @Beavz0r You're missing the story

            "nothing that justifies a recall or ban."

            You're missing the fact that Motorola sued Apple first back in 2010 and the two corporations have been back and forth in court ever since. Suing and counter suing each other. If you play with fire then expect to get burn. Motorola decided to test Apple's lawyers (and patents) and they got burnt with Apple's counter-suits. Motorola has already been found by German courts to infringe three other Apple patents a few weeks ago.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_Mobility_v._Apple_Inc.

            So does that rubber band patent by itself justify a banning of Motorola's phone? Probably not. It just adds to Apple's arsenal and gives them more leverage in getting what they want from Motorola. The two company was already said to be in talks over licensing or cross licensing deals.
            dave95.
          • Yet it goes both ways.

            I really don't see a clear victor in this week's edition of Patent Wars (which is sure to be the next hit reality show on the History Channel).

            As you mentioned yourself, this has been an on-going battle for a few years now... and neither party has yet to break any *real* ground. You do have a point in relation to potentially using this verdict as a form of leverage when it comes to licensing negotiations, but it's still boils down to being only one ruling in a foreign court -- over a 'feature' that hardly deserves its own patent.

            Even then, I still will not deny that I completely, and full-heartedly agree that Motorola was in the wrong on this one. What I don't agree with is any form of penalty beyond what's fair and reasonable -- 1) removal of feature if no licensing agreement can be made, 2) Motorola's payment of Apple's court fees in the case, and 3) some amount of monetary restitution for Motorola's infringement, mostly based on a *realistic* assessment of that patent's worth, had it been licensed out properly.

            That's rather standard for your typical violation, based on my understanding at least. To push it any further would be absurd for a patent that, at the most EXTREME, cost Apple maybe $100,000 in R&D.
            Beavz0r
        • Actually, it is

          Coming up with the same trivial, obvious idea *independently* is a legally acceptable defense... and is the basis of the entire PC-clone market, which has been operating for over 20 years.

          Had IBM been able to enforce assert their BIOS patents, we'd all be running Altairs right now.
          Marc Jellinek
          • No It Isn't

            WHAT "BIOS patents"?
            ldo17
      • the answer to that is simple

        Consumers want their products to contain the best features from all other devices together with whatever new features Google or whoever add in. Two years ago when I switched from iPhone to Galaxy I did so because I needed a larger screen but with a similar feature set to the iPhone, other consumers want to pay less for a more cheaply made and possibly less reliable one - there are smartphones coming out of China, getting good reviews on amazon, for under £100 and I am looking at those thinking does it really cost over £300 to make my Galaxy?

        Trivial and desired are not the same thing - who hasn't bought a device before on the strength of features seldom used afterwards. Sure you can modify these small trivial things but that is not what apple want - they want their product to be the dominant one in the market place. 3 years ago we talked mostly about "iPhones", now we talk more about "smartphones" reducing them to a generic type and that goes against the elitist image that Apple want their products to have. I don't believe that companies should be given, never mind protected, by patents on things that it is clear were likely to evolve in any event.
        The last point is what is this doing for ecology - it grieves me when I hear of trading standards officers destroying fake clothing etc - (fake = something copied exactly with intent to defraud) such stock could be marked in some way and handed out free, or at very low cost to poor families who would never be able to purchase the originals. It is bad enough that products are made with short disposable lives in the first place but destroying perfect goods to protect a company's profits is on a par with food mountains in the EU.
        cymru999
    • When Apple counter-sues and win

      Fandroids tell us their patent is trivial. Apple's scared of competition, they're just trying to limit choice.

      When Google/Moto sues Apple (Moto sued Apple first in 2010). Well, Apple should stop stealing other's Intellectual Property.

      Cue the double standards:

      http://www.zdnet.com/motorola-mobility-sues-apple-again-seeks-iphone-mac-import-ban-7000002853/
      dave95.
      • not quite...

        sure, there are three nutsy fanboys. But the main frustration is that everyone is frustrated about Apple copying others, but when someone copies them, then its the end of the world. What about that notification system that Apple copied? Not many would care, if it weren't about Apple getting so angry about that bouncy thingy, for example - it's something that's hard to do in another way - just like the bouncy thingy. I'll be honest, the glow isn't that great. But then, if Apple sues google for that, maybe Apple should stop using that pull-down notification bar - which they won't be - and that's what gets people so worked up.
        trainman261-2
        • It's a little more complicated than that

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Motorola_Mobility_v._Apple_Inc.
          dave95.