Apple has been forced to remove all 3G devices except for iPhone 4S from its online store in Germany.
Back in December, Motorola had won a preliminary injunction against Apple, banning the sale of 3G devices in Germany. The removal of the 3G devices is related to the enforcement of that December injunction.
Apple has issued the following statement:
“Apple believes this old pager patent is invalid and we’re appealing the courts decision,” company spokesman Alan Hely said in an e-mailed statement.”
They also told PaidContent that:
While some iPad and iPhone models are not available through Apple’s online store in Germany right now, customers should have no problem finding them at one of our retail stores or an authorized reseller. Apple is appealing this ruling because Motorola repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry standard patent seven years ago.
The patent in question was EP1010336 (B1) (US equivalent No. 6,359,898), which describes a “method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system.” It was declared “essential” for the GPRS standard which is universally used nowadays. So Apple had tried to use the “FRAND” defense, claiming that the patent was essential to the 3G standard and needed “fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory” terms for licensing it.
FOSS Patents had highlighted exactly why the court ruled in Motorola’s favor:
The logic presented by Motorola’s counsel convinced the court: someone using a patented invention should have to pay a price for being found to have infringed. While competition law requires the patent holder to extend a license on FRAND terms going forward, past infringement is a different matter. 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 favorable terms than someone procuring a license at the outset. They say that favorable terms would result from a scenario in which payments for using the patent in the past can be avoided by proving the patent invalid.
It is not clear why Apple has not removed iPhone 4S from the online store, but it is possible that since iPhone 4S is relatively new, Motorola had not included it while filing the patent lawsuit.
This is a major setback for Apple who sold a whopping 37 million iPhones in the last quarter. It remains to be seen how this ban will impact iPhone sales for this quarter.
That didn’t last too long. All iPad and iPhone models should be available in Apple’s Online store shortly as the injunction has been temporarily suspended.