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

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.