Appeals Court Revives Apple Multitouch Patent in Blow to Motorola and Android

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The Android community as a whole, but especially Motorola Mobility, suffered a harsh blow on Wednesday when the U.S. Court of Appeals overturned an International Trade Commission ruling that Motorola Mobility's wasn't infringing on Apple's multitouch display patent. The original ITC ruling came over a year ago, which Apple ultimately appealed. With the Federal Court now saying Apple's multitouch patent is valid, Motorola Mobility faces the possibility of product import bans, and other Android-based smartphone makers may have to find ways to change their smartphone interfaces or end up in court, too.

Game on! Apple can use its multitouch patent in infringement fight with Motorola MobilityGame on! Apple can use its multitouch patent in infringement fight with Motorola Mobility

With Apple's multitouch patent (7,663,607) alive again, Google could find itself in legal hot water because its Android OS is at the heart of the infringement complaint. Not only could other Android device makers find themselves in court fighting patent infringement claims, but Google could, too, and it could be forced to find a way to recode its operating system to work around the patent -- a task that won't be so easy to accomplish.

Apple had dropped its multitouch patent from its infringement case against Samsung, but now can reassert it, along with a second patent the Appeals Court ruled was valid. The second patent, 7,812,828, described multitouch surfaces, and when combined with the 607 patent, makes avoiding infringement lawsuit even more difficult for Android device makers.

Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents stated,

Without a doubt, Samsung, which is represented by the same law firm against Apple as Motorola Mobility (Quinn Emanuel), has been watching this appeal with great concern, and will be very unhappy about today's decision.

Mr. Mueller added that today's ruling could be more important strategically for Apple than last August's big win against Samsung for mobile device patent infringement. In that case, a jury ruled that Samsung was infringing on a long list of Apple-owned mobile device design patents, while also ruling Apple wasn't infringing on any of Samsung's patents.

Apple was awarded over US$1 billion in damages in that case, although a substantial part of that was tossed out because the jury improperly calculated how much the company should be paid for some infringing devices. A new trial to determine what the damages value for those devices is scheduled for this November.

Apple hasn't publicly said yet whether or not it plans to pursue its case against Motorola now that the 607 and 828 patents are back on the table, but it's a safe bet it will.

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Overturning the ITC's ruling is a huge win for Apple, and a sharp blow for Google and Android device makers. If they can't rely on multitouch technology for their devices, much of the key functionality they offer could be lost, and a smartphone interface that offers little more than single tap controls for everything doesn't sound like an appealing option for consumers.

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Lee Dronick

Hmmmmm, can Apple come up something new and license the old?


Interesting financial problem. Maybe Apple could offer to license these patents for $16 per Android device. That is what Samsung wants for cheap FRAND wireless patents. I’m sure Samsung, Motorola, Amazon and all the other droid manufacturers would be delighted to pay this fair fee on every device they have sold and will sell. Actually, since these aren’t FRAND patents; Apple should demand $32 per device. LOL


How likely might it be at this point that some court would find Apple’s MultiTouch patents to be so widely/universally employed nowadays, that it would rule that Apple MUST frreely licence those patents to all comers as SEP’s under true FRAND terms



FRAND applies to IP that is included in an industry standard formed by a governing standards body.

Apple working alone in their workshop and coming up with something that everyone wants to use, is not the same as a standards body determining an industry wide standard.

Companies would basically have to come up with their own method/technology for determining and detecting multi-touch input on a capacitive touch screen.

Although, I do believe that it is so pervasive now, that an outright ban of infringing products would be shot down and instead Apple would be simply be forced to license the technology ... For what fee? I don’t know, but I wouldn’t surprised if Apple asked for a high fee - after all, it is a fairly important part of the overall user experience.


Burma Yank:

It seems strange Apple would be penalized if other companies took its technology without permission thereby making it universal.

With that said, I agree with mjtomlin. Apple likely would not be awarded an injunction (sadly enough), but would the offenders would be required to pay non-FRAND type royalties. I read Apple asked for $36 a phone from Samsung.


If there were noinjunction, and instead the offenders were required to pay enormous non-FRAND type royalties, I would assume those offenders would be considered to be the Android smartphone & tablet manufacturers (such as Motorola), but not Google itself.

In that case, I wonder if Samsung would then sue Google for the penalty-damages their collaborated infringement had caused Samsung.

Anthony Allen

I find it truly wondrous that this ruling came right after the federal government all but screwed Samsung on the ITC win banning Apple products. Apple is nothing but a bully boy. They have themselves been sued REPEATEDLY for stealing other companies patents, yet they act as though they are only victims. They overcharge their customers and the bully every other player in the mobile business. It’s all good though… Just like the last time Apple lost Steve Jobs, they will eventually hang themselves and fade away into nothing until perhaps another true visionary megalomaniac pops up to run the company.

Richard Butler

@Anthony Allen

Apple never has overcharged customers. They simply sell a premium product (materials, design, internals, etc.) at a premium price. I’ll say it again—at a premium price not an unfair price.

Would you expect to walk into Walmart and pay $700 for a pair of pants any more than you would expect to pay $29.95 for a pair in Neiman-Marcus?  of course not. one gets what one pays for and wee I to pay $3,400 for a fully loaded Retina MBPro I know I am buying the absolute best laptop with the best of everything inside and out.  it will, essentially, be a Jong I’ve designed product rather than one designed by, heaven help us, Eric “Mole”, Schmidt.

My parents taught me to buy the best you can afford rather than something that’s cheap and will have to be replaced several times over before the better product will see the junk pile.

The highest price does not always the best product, but in Apple’s case, it most assuredly does.  If you hate Apple, OS X and/or iOS so much, there’s always the Android/Google cheap products that most buy. Feel free to be one of the masses that pick price over quality.  It will ensure your epitaph—“Here lies Anthony Allen: for Sure, a True Common American Who Did Nothing But Waste His Money on Cheaply Made Products Rather Than One Of The Few Who Bought On The Cheap rather Than Quality.”

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