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Law & Apple: ITC Delays, Setback in the Outback, and Bad News from Bavaria

Law & Apple

After delay and drama, we awaited the first major ruling in Apple’s web of global litigation today, but all we got was another delay. Meanwhile, earlier in the week, despite vigorous appeals from Apple, Samsung got the green-light to sell in Australia, and Motorola might have gained the upper hand in Europe.

So what’s going on with the ITC ruling, and what is going on around the world? Cue the “dun dun” and read on!

Apple vs. HTC

The Wall Street Journal reports that, according to HTC, the U.S. International Trade Commission has again delayed the major ruling on Apple’s patent infringement complaint against the rival handset maker. The ruling, now expected to be announced on Monday, December 19, is a landmark decision that could not only set the bar for the dozens of other infringement cases Apple is involved in, but could also ban HTC products from store shelves in the United States.

Earlier this year, an ITC administrative judge found HTC infringed on two Apple patents, and turfed the final decision to the ITC’s six member panel. The panel was originally slated to announce their decision on December 6, that ruling was postponed to today, and now we wait a few more days. The initial ruling by the administrative judge is significant, and many expect the final ruling to fall Cupertino’s way.

HTC Quietly Hoping

Meh. At this point, what’s a few more days…

If Monday’s ruling does go against HTC, barring any last-minute settlement the company will face a ban on importing its products into the United States. There would be a sixty day presidential review period, and HTC is likely to appeal to suspend the ban during the appeals process. Regardless of appeal, a ruling against HTC would give Apple strong ammunition against other Android device manufacturers. 

Apple vs. Samsung

Apple’s request to keep the ban against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 in place in Australia was denied last week, and the product is expected to reach store shelves Down Under sometime this week.  Samsung was desperate the get the device in Australian stores before Christmas, as missing the holiday shopping season would have probably killed the Galaxy 10.1 completely.

Apple received from an Australian lower court an injunction against Samsung’s device in July. The injunction successfully blocked the Galaxy 10.1 from launching until late November when an Australian Federal Court unanimously decided to lift the ban. Apple immediately filed appeals, keen to keep the injunction in place through the holiday, but last Friday the Australian High Court denied the appeals and lifted the ban.

Samsung Galaxy 10.1

Good on ya, mate. 

The ruling is a win for Samsung, in as much as the beleaguered Galaxy 10.1 can finally launch, and may even have benefitted from all the media exposure surrounding this case. It is important to note, however, this ruling only pertained to the preliminary ban on the Galaxy 10.1 put in place before the final case was decided. The actual infringement case, which will determine the long term fate of Apple and Samsung in Australia, is scheduled for March of 2012.

Motorola vs. Apple

Florence Mueller of FOSS Patents details how Motorola Mobility defeated Apple in a German patent dispute, and, pending appeals, could block the sale of all iPhone and 3G iPad models in Germany. The ruling, handed down from the Mannheim Regional Court, states that Apple could modify its products by removing the patented feature to avoid further infringement. 

The patent at the core of this dispute involves a “method for performing a countdown function during a mobile-originated transfer for a packet radio system,” a element that is considered essential to the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS) standard, and is most likely critical for wireless data transfers. In addition to the injunction, the ruling also stated that Apple owes damages to Motorola based on past sales of infringing products in Germany.

Apple Store in Germany

Hey Germany, get your 3G iOS devices while you can! Hurry!

This ruling is a major win for Motorola. Apple will appeal the ruling to the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, and request the injunction be lifted for the rest of the proceedings. If the injunction is not lifted, Motorola will have to decide whether to risk enforcing a ruling that might be overturned later, a risk that involves laying down a cool 4 million bond. Either way, in Germany at least, Motorola is on the offensive and Apple is the one waiting and hoping.


Adrian writes the weekly Law & Apple column for MacLife.com. You can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to him on Facebook, if you want to.


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