A regional court has temporarily banned Apple from marketing or supplying iPhones and iPads in Germany, following a suit brought about by Motorola.
A Mannheim judge issued the default judgement on Friday, after Apple failed to defend itself against Motorola's claims. The Android device-maker, in the process of being bought by Google, had accused Apple of violating two patents in its mobile products.
According to ZDNet UK sister site CNET News.com, Apple has responded to the news by saying it was "a procedural issue [that] has nothing to do with the merits of the case", which chimes with the fact that Apple's failure to show up meant the merits of the case were never thrashed out in court.
Apple also said that the default judgement "does not affect our ability to do business or sell products in Germany at this time". This may have something to do with the respondent in the case being Apple Inc, the US parent company, and not Apple GmbH, the company's local subsidiary.
However, as German patent commentator Florian Mueller noted on his Foss Patents blog, Apple's German online store appears to be run by Apple Inc, and the parent company also has to deliver more iPhones and iPads to its German branch if it is to continue selling products in that country, once current retail stocks have been depleted.
On Monday morning, Apple's German online store was still selling iPhones and iPads. Theoretically, if Motorola were to push for the default judgement to be enforced right away, this could make Apple liable for fines of up to €250k (£214k) for each violation, and a German court could even call for a six-month prison sentence for Apple execs.
Mueller pointed out that Apple is likely to ask the courts to temporarily suspend the judgement until it gets its appeal together.
The judgement does not name the iPad or iPhone, referring only to mobile devices that use the two Motorola Mobility patents in question. The first, European Patent (EP) 1010336 (B1), covers a "method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system", while EP 0847654 (B1) describes a "multiple pager status synchronisation system and method".
The Mannheim case is something of a role reversal for Apple, which in August got a Duesseldorf court to temporarily ban some of Samsung's Galaxy Tab Android tablets across the country. The company is engaged in dozens of back-and-forth legal battles with Android manufacturers across the globe, possibly carrying out the wish of the late Apple founder Steve Jobs to "go thermonuclear war" on Google's mobile OS.