A regional German court has ruled that Apple products, including the iPhone and iPad, infringe on GPRS patents held by Motorola Mobility.
The ruling was issued on Friday by the Mannheim Regional Court in Germany and is one of a number of patent disputes between the two companies. It follows a default judgement issued at the beginning of December when Apple failed to show up to defend itself against the claims.
Apple now faces the possibility of having a sales injunction placed on the infringing products in Germany unless it can secure a stay until an appeal can be heard.
"Today's decision validates Motorola Mobility's efforts to enforce its patents against Apple's infringement," said Scott Offer, general counsel for Motorola Mobility. "Motorola Mobility has worked hard over the years to build an industry-leading intellectual property portfolio that is respected by the telecommunications industry."
The disputes revolve around two European patents held by Motorola. This case concerns one that is described as a "method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system".
According to Florian Mueller, German patent commentator, the ruling states that Apple can modify its products to avoid future infringement but that this might not be a commercially viable option and that "this feature could be somewhat fundamental to wireless transfers in general".
However, Mueller thinks Apple will appeal the decision at the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court and request a stay for the remainder of proceedings.
"Such a suspension may or may not be granted. If there's no stay, Motorola will have to decide whether to bear the risk of enforcing a ruling that might be overturned later," Mueller said in a blog post.
Apple had initially asked for a €2bn (£1.7bn) bond, but the court sided with Motorola and concluded that a much lower amount was warranted — in this case, €100 million. This is the amount that could be paid to Apple if an injunction against the sale of infringing products was later overturned. Apple could also attempt to license the disputed patent, Mueller added.
Apple did already attempt to license the patent under FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms but Motorola's legal team convinced the court that if Apple is guilty of infringement, the total damages would exceed the value of the FRAND agreement.
"While competition law requires the patent holder to extend a license on FRAND terms going forward, past infringement is a different matter," Mueller explained. "If, in the alternative, damages for past infringement were limited to a FRAND royalty rate, Motorola and Judge Voß argue, an infringer might ultimately get to use the patent on more favourable terms than someone procuring a license at the outset."
Apple is also involved in a number of other patent-related disputes, some of which are also based in German courts and involve Samsung's range of Galaxy Tab tablets.