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Apple wins battle in Motorola patent war

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A German court has ruled that Motorola Mobility can't enforce a patent-battle injunction it won in December that would have prevented Apple's iPhone and iPad from being sold in that country.

The injunction caused Apple to remove those products from its German online store earlier this month, only to put them back up within hours, after the courts issued a temporary suspension of that injunction.

Monday's ruling in an appeals court, in Karlsruhe, Germany, as reported by Bloomberg, goes a step further, saying that Motorola can't enforce the injunction while the case is under appeal – which may take a year or more.

At issue is a patent related to general packet radio services (GPRS) that's at the core to the development of 3G technology – so essential, in fact that the patent is legally defined as being a "standard essential patent", subject to FRAND (Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory) licensing conditions. Motorola must license it at reasonable terms to competitors – not to do so would violate antitrust laws.

"At the current state of the proceedings, it is to be assumed that Motorola Mobility would violate its duties under antitrust rules if it continues to ask Apple to stop the sales," Bloomberg reports that the Karlsruhe court said in a statement.

And so now Apple can continue to sell its iWares in Germany during the appeal, and also attempt to reach a FRAND licensing settlement with Motorola without the pressure of lost sales.

Do note, however, that this is just one patent dogfight in which Apple is contesting with the handset maker for which Google began acquisition proceedings last August. Another spat has led to Apple having to turn off iCloud push notifications, and that case is wholly separate and still in dispute.

While all this may seem a wee bit confusing, one thing is clear: if Google had planned to use its $12.5bn Motorola Mobility acquisition primarily to wield a big ol' patent stick, that cudgel just became a bit flaccid. ®

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