Breaking: Apple no longer allowed to sell Iphone 4S and all other mobile devices in Germany due to infringement of Motorola patent
[as people were upset about my quoted no. of people in Germany I have changed it to the correct number and given an indication of the scale of the German market. No other edits. Follow ups are in the comments and new posts http://bit.ly/t10Nwg and http://j.mp/tJdvet ]
In one of the strangest twists in the patent war in the mobile industry a German court has just forbidden Apple to import any mobile device in Germany.

The case is quite complex but let me summarize it in laymen´s term. The link below goes into detail and I´m happy to provide more detail in the comments, but I thought it would be handy to have an up to date post which summarizes things without complex judicial or technical terms. [edit:the comments already contain important clarifications but the summary is still correct]

Motorola has in many countries (also in the US) filed infringements against Apple as they violate crucial patents for the mobile technology. So it´s not about the smartphone aspect, nor the design issues, but just the basic mobile phone technology.
Apple has refused to take licenses for Motorola´s patents while all other mobile manufacturers have done so. This is not a new situation, but all attempt from Motorola to get Apple to start paying for licenses failed so they started a number of court cases a long time ago.

Today Florian Mueller who writes about patent technology (see link) got a still not published court verdict in his hands. It´s quite clear: Apple lost this court case in a German court. Why: because they didn´t defend themselves in a timely way.

Now Apple seems to state this is just ´procedural´, but an injunction just means you can´t get any Apple mobile products into the German market. Don´t forget that the German market is huge with a 100 80+ million people and an economy the size of New York and California together.

Apple seems to be in a bit of denial but reading the original court order (I can read German although not perfect) it´s quite clear this is an executable court decision. Apple can´t sell (or more precise import) in Germany.

Now for the why? Why didn´t Apple defend itself. It can´t be that Apple just ´forgot´ to respond to the court case so it will have been deliberate.

One reason of course is that Apple has trouble anyway defending itself in all court cases regarding Motorola´s basic technology.

I´m no judge neither a patent lawyer but I did study law and do understand technology quite well and it seems that Apple should pay a reasonable fee to Motorola for these old mobile technology patents.

What Apple probably wants (and you will see these words a lot in the discussions today) is to get a license on so called FRAND (or RAND) terms, meaning that Fair, Reasonable and Non Discrimanatory. Meaning if they have to pay, they don´t want to pay more than other competitors hence the term FRAND.

Apple could argue (it hasn´t argued don´t forget that) that this Motorola technology has become parts of the 3G and UMTS mobile phone standards and all patents which become part of an official standard have to be offered on these FRAND terms to all interested parties.

Makes sense as otherwise you could at random get one competitor out of the game and that can never be the result of an official standard. Otherwise one company could block someone from entering the mobile market at all or at a price much higher than all others in the market and that´s everything the acronym FRAND tries to prevent.

Is this the reason Apple let the court case slip? There is a rumour that as Apple who is involved in many court cases against a large number of manufacturers tries to get a ruling of the European Community on the FRAND issues in general because they would like to force Samsung to offer Apple technology on FRAND terms. It´s at this moment speculation.

My temporary conclusion, having read everything up until this moment is that Apple betted on the wrong horse and are now facing a huge problem in Germany.

Will they get around the problem by importing the Iphone 4S and all other devices through other European countries? Will they state that only Apple Inc. is convicted and not Apple Germany. A weak case so unlikely.

It could well be that they lost their important sales season in one of the largest single markets in the world

edit: see also my follow up post that Apple really will be hurt by this in Germany contrary to people who think only Apple US is involved hencde no real consequences. Don´t think so http://bit.ly/u9ScYO
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