Apple 2.0

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Google loses Apple 'rubber-banding' case in Germany

September 14, 2012: 4:15 AM ET

Could be forced to recall or destroy all infringing Motorola smartphones and tablets

Motorola Droid Razr

FORTUNE -- A German court has handed Apple (AAPL) a significant victory in a patent infringement case against Google's (GOOG) Motorola division, according to a report posted early Friday by FOSS Patents' Florian Mueller.

A regional court in Munich ruled that Motorola's smartphones and tablets violate the European equivalent of Apple's U.S. Patent No. 7,469,381, which came to be known to the Apple v. Samsung jury as overscroll bounce, or rubber banding. This is the signal by which Apple's mobile devices tell users they have reached the end of a list. The current version of Android has a work-around -- a blue glow instead of a bounce -- which Samsung adopted but Motorola hasn't

Google can -- and probably will -- appeal the ruling. Meanwhile, however, Apple can enforce a Germany-wide injunction by posting a 25-million-euro ($32.6 million) bond. For another 10 million euros, Apple can force a recall of the infringing devices. For another 10 million, according to Mueller, it can demand that Motorola destroy them.

"It was Motorola who decided to attack Apple and Microsoft in Germany at a time when those companies were suing Motorola only in the United States," Mueller writes. "Now Motorola has already been found by German courts to infringe three Apple and two Microsoft patents. Since it doesn't have much market share in Germany, the immediate business impact of these decisions is asymmetrical to the impact of any ruling against Apple or Microsoft in this country. But the outcome of those cases shows that Android has far bigger patent infringement problems than any piece of computer software has ever had in the history of the industry, and this has many of Google's hardware partners profoundly concerned."

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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