If you have not been following the Mobile Patent Wars (which are becoming as complex as the War of the Roses) then the simple announcement that Apple has won a round against Motorola Mobility (and thus against Google, who is acquiring MotoMo) won’t have much context. But this particular round appears to be an important one. A German Court (in the lovely little South German town of Karlsruhe) has shot down MotoMo’s attempts to get Germany to ban the import of Apple mobile products, based on patents that MotoMo owns. These patents were built into the 3G standards, and as such, must be licensed to all comers at Fair, Reasonable and NonDiscriminatory rates (hereafter: FRAND, if I am forced to use it hereafter).
The question is whether attempting to charge Apple what Motorola feels is “fair” rates, but which don’t look fair at all to Apple, and having Apple continue the negotiations over the long term seeking fair rates, is grounds to ask Germany (not chosen by chance, but because they have very restrictive views on such things) to stop allowing the import of Apple mobile products that use this 3G technology.
The larger picture is: will Google (as owner of Motorola Mobility and its patents) be able to twist the arms of competitors such as Apple and Microsoft by using FRAND-based patents to either force their products off certain markets, or to extract large sums out of them to avoid this? The answer that appears to be forming is: no. No, to the degree that some analysts feel the entire purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google (for $12.5 billion) may have been a waste. I would like to think that Motorola Mobility has some value beyond this short list of patents, but it certainly appears that the short-term benefit Google would have achieved by wielding such patents is not going to prove useful. Here’s a PC World article with more on the topic, for those not yet tired of the subject…
Stay tuned, there are bound to be many more rounds in this match of the titans.