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Google says Apple ripped off Motorola's patented messaging technology

With its crushing court defeat of Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930), Apple Inc. (AAPL) won a key battle in its fight against Google Inc. (GOOG), but the war remains far from over.

I. Motorola Hit Back

Previously, Google (via its subsidiary Motorola Mobility) and Apple had fought each other to a standstill with Judge Richard A. Posner, a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge moonlighting in the U.S. District Court, Northern District of Illinois (Chicago). Posner twice dismissed the pair's suits/countersuits with prejudice arguing that both side effectively just wanted to ban the other's products and wasn't looking for legitimate damages.

That stalemate left Google with limited options.  However, it is now pursuing its biggest and best opportunity to hurt Apple -- a U.S. International Trade Commission complaint.  With the complaint Google is looking to hit Apple hard, banning nearly every single one of its products, including all its best-selling devices.

The ITC independent investigates patent dispute claims.  And as most mobile device makers -- including Apple -- manufacture their products exclusively in China, its panel of judges essentially have as much power as a federal judge and jury, as they can order a blockade on imports -- an effective sales ban -- if they feel infringement occurred.  That's precisely the route Apple used to temporarily stifle the sales of Android phonemaker HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) in May.

Apple products
Google is seeking to ban virtually all Apple's devices [Image Source: Apple]

For its new complaint Google-Motorola was careful not to use one of its 3G or 4G patents, which may be illegal to sue Apple with, given that they were developed for industry standards.  Instead, Google-Motorola is using U.S. Patent No. 6,983,370, a broad patent that describes cross-platform messaging to a "plurality of messaging clients".  The patent was filed in 2001 and granted to Motorola in 2006 by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).
Exhibit 27

Apple may be treading on dangerous ground, given how broad Motorola's patent is.  Its best bet may be to try to find cracks in certain Motorola claims and then try to challenge the patent on the grounds of invalid claims construction.  Otherwise it could find almost of its products -- the iPhone, most iPods, the iPhone, the iPad, and Mac computers -- banned from import into the U.S.

II. Vague, Yes, But Motorola Could Win

To be clear Google's patent is almost laughably ubiquitous -- it's basically claiming that any messaging client that uses Wi-Fi or cellular data connections is in violation of its patent.

But again, logic and reason have long since left town in patent land in the U.S.  

For example Apple's big win against Samsung in part came thanks to a pair of patents that were equally ridiculous, if not more so.  One patent was a design patent covering a broad array of smartphone shapes (rectangular with curved edges), while a second was the so-called "rubber-band" patent, which granted Apple exclusively rights to have its graphical user interface mirror a kind of commonly occurring natural phenomena (a transient effect).  That would be like if you patented making a graphical element move in a spiral.

In addition to the messaging patent, Motorola also is claiming iOS and OS X infringe on several other patents -- U.S. Patent No. 5,883,580 (COVERS: geo-tagging and time-stamping messages FILED: 1997 GRANTED: 1999); U.S. Patent No. 6,493,673  (COVERS: markup language for user messages and input FILED: 2000 GRANTED: 2002); U.S. Patent No. 5,922,047 (COVERS: processing control signals from multimedia/telephony apps FILED: 1996 GRANTED: 1999); U.S. Patent No. 6,425,002 (COVERS: interapplication message passing FILED: 1998 GRANTED: 2002); U.S. Patent No. 7,007,064 (COVERS: memory management for wireless communications FILED: 2002 GRANTED: 2006); and U.S. Patent No. 7,383,983 (COVERS: pausing messaging content FILED: 2005 GRANTED: 2008).

Nearly all of Motorola's current claims is built around broad messaging patents.
[Image Source: Scribd]

If you see a central theme it's because there is one -- basically Motorola has patents that cover virtually every single aspect of wireless messaging and it's looking to use that non-FRAND portfolio to punish Apple.

If Apple can win on such confounding patents, it would not surprise for Google-Motorola to potentially score a similar logic-defying win, assuming luck is in their favor at their day in court.

The ITC has voted to investigate the claim against Apple, so the filings are now on the public record and win, lose, or draw Motorola will at least have its day in court.

Sources: Scribd, U.S. ITC

Comments     Threshold

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By NellyFromMA on 9/21/2012 8:58:08 AM , Rating: 5
Kinda weird that people aren't agitated with Google's pursuit of litigation.

Kind of reminds me of politics. It's not really about who's right or wrong or even facts in general, just that your favorite team wins -_-

RE: ...
By xti on 9/21/2012 9:31:59 AM , Rating: 4
i fear that if i agree with you, i will get burned at the stake too.

RE: ...
By vignyan on 9/21/2012 9:55:45 AM , Rating: 5
Yes, but somehow, I feel like this is intended to bring apple to a limited cross licensing deal so that Motorola can spend more time on design and less time in the courts... like Microsoft.

I hope I am right. Otherwise, I will have to add Google to my list of hated companies - right next to apple.

RE: ...
By polishvendetta on 9/21/2012 12:29:54 PM , Rating: 3
While i see this as more of a self defence type of case im still all for the judges stance that originally threw out the Motorola v Apple case.

Make phones, not lawsuits!

RE: ...
By othercents on 9/21/2012 3:15:10 PM , Rating: 3
Make phones, not lawsuits!

I wish all judges felt the same way, but for some reason the ones in California are very happy to let the Apple suits keep going and going and going and going......

I don't feel as though the lawsuit that Google/Motorola is placing is as baseless as the ones Apple has placed. There are places for lawsuits however to go out of your way to steal someone else's idea then patent it and sue other companies over it is just as bad as the thief that fell through a skylight and sued the home owner.


RE: ...
By crazy1 on 9/22/2012 1:08:39 AM , Rating: 3
Agreed. The patent war should end. Apple should give Samsung it's money back. The USPO should re-evaluate what details should be included in a valid patent.

RE: ...
By StevoLincolnite on 9/21/2012 11:10:35 AM , Rating: 5
You have to remember... Apple started this patent-litigation war... So many people have very little sympathy for them at this stage, honestly do you blame them?

I do want to see Apple on the receiving end of having it's products banned for a short while, just so they know what it is like on the receiving end of the stick.

Plus, this will hopefully bring more proof to light on how BROKEN the patent system really is and get it fixed.

RE: ...
By ritualm on 9/21/2012 12:14:26 PM , Rating: 2
Huh? I thought it was Nokia that ultimately started the tailspin. Apple turned patent trolling into an art form.

RE: ...
By Samus on 9/21/2012 3:56:09 PM , Rating: 4
Nokia was appropriately protecting its IP which Apple copied quite a bit of at a hardware level (we're not talking about frivilous crap like a green "Phone" icon or rubberband effect) but in the end, Apple copied, and perfected, what Nokia started.

RE: ...
By Scannall on 9/22/12, Rating: -1
RE: ...
By NellyFromMA on 9/24/2012 12:40:06 PM , Rating: 2
I'm definitely not an Apple sympathizer and I do get your point (I believe) that Apple initiated this long string of largely idiotic patent litigation particularly the whole 'ban products' aspects.

I just like to keep it fair and especially like to note when I see double-standard-like situations.

I think Apple's recent wins in court are rediculous and foolish at best and of course Google must defend itself.

The reaction in response to Google's decision is just interesting to me though.

I wonder if any serious alternatives to the current patent system are being proposed/drafted/considered.

RE: ...
By aicom64 on 9/21/2012 9:34:24 AM , Rating: 5
If somebody got punched in the face, would you be agitated if they decided to stand up for themselves and punch back?

RE: ...
By Tony Swash on 9/21/12, Rating: -1
RE: ...
By phatboye on 9/21/2012 11:10:59 AM , Rating: 5
You do realize that Motorola was a pioneer in the mobile space. Apple wouldn't even have an iPhone if it was not for the early work done by Motorola, so claiming Motorola stole from Apple is completely bogus.

RE: ...
By morob05 on 9/21/2012 11:22:06 AM , Rating: 2
The thing is that it is pretty much impossible to build a smartphone and not infringe on one of apple's patents!! Apple needs to chill out and be satisfied and content with their great sales-figures... May the better product win, not the better patent or lawyer!!

RE: ...
By Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer on 9/21/2012 11:54:53 AM , Rating: 5
If you believe Steve Jobs was justified in his insane, deluded, megalomaniacal crusade against Android and Samsung, then sure, I guess you would consider Apple to have not punched first.

If, on the other hand, you recognize Apple's actions for what they are, the deliberate attempt to cripple a successful competitor in the market without actually having to compete, then Apple clearly threw the first punch.

So, yeah, in this case I'm rooting for Google, because they're not the company that's actively trying to stifle innovation.

RE: ...
By retrospooty on 9/21/2012 4:00:33 PM , Rating: 5
Tony, just STFU. Not even Wozniak agrees with your disgustingly skewed take on everything.

RE: ...
RE: ...
By bupkus on 9/21/2012 9:45:00 AM , Rating: 1
Does the fact that Apple is going for the absolute maximum not bother you? If that maximum were 10 billions do you think Apple would hesitate to mark that as their cost in damages or if the court allowed for Apple to ask for the keys to all Samsung assets?

Pirates of Silicon Valley Part 2

RE: ...
By bupkus on 9/21/2012 9:54:03 AM , Rating: 3
Pirates of Silicon Valley Part 2
brought to you by the U.S. Patent Agency.*

All rights reserved.
Warning: Copyright infringement of US may result in our coming over to your house and shoving a street lamp up your...

RE: ...
By Camikazi on 9/21/2012 9:39:34 AM , Rating: 2
Seems like they are defending themselves, Apple has gone after their partners and their OS trying to destroy them. I honestly can't blame them for doing the same to Apple, when it comes to companies being the nice guy and turning the other cheek will end up with you going out of business. They are tyring to show Apple that they won't stand down and will fight to protect themselves.

RE: ...
By hugo_stiglitz on 9/21/2012 9:45:25 AM , Rating: 5
Exactly. If Google can win some lawsuits at least this would force Apple into some sort of cross-licensing deal where everyone can compete with their products instead of having their products banned. Apple started this patent-trolling war, that's why there's no sympathy for them.

RE: ...
By nafhan on 9/21/2012 10:22:18 AM , Rating: 2
I'm agitated by it. Given the current legal environment, though, it's probably the best thing for them to do.

I'm REALLY hoping that a few major corporations get stung badly enough by all this nonsense that THEY start pushing for patent reform. More likely situation is that we just end up with a bunch of cross-licensing agreements after years of billion-dollar legal wrangling: incumbents keep what they've already got, and new players have an even more difficult time breaking into the market.

RE: ...
By blueaurora on 9/21/2012 11:10:33 AM , Rating: 5
Did Google even care about doing this prior to Apples highgincks? NO... Has Apple opened pandoras box yes. If google wanted to they could bring down half the mobile industry. Will they. NO. All Google wants is to settle this on the merits that count the sales counter.

I don't think it would be realistic to think that a company with as much capital under the belt cares one bit about suing Apple for monetary damages. They can in essence shut apple down for force them into letting bygones be bygones.

RE: ...
By blueaurora on 9/21/2012 11:18:14 AM , Rating: 2
Nuclear War is the only way to start over in this patent system.

RE: ...
By geddarkstorm on 9/21/2012 12:59:38 PM , Rating: 2
That sounds like something an archvillain in an X-men movie would say. Except this case it's likely true.

RE: ...
By BZDTemp on 9/21/2012 11:22:22 AM , Rating: 2
Not really.

Google is an innovator as opposed to Apple that is mostly about good integration and marketing. And also Google is the that is open to the world which is very different from Apple that do their very best to lock people to their platform.

Is Google perfect - No, but with Apple you don't need to look longer than their lack of USB port on their iPhone/iPad as a great example of them being dicks.

RE: ...
By Dug on 9/21/2012 11:56:36 AM , Rating: 1
Google an innovator?
You do realize they have bought over 115 companies and use their ideas to put into their software.
And you really believe that Google doesn't want to lock you into their platform? And they are open to the world?

You really need to go back in history and read about the cutthroat tactics Google has used over the years.
They have bought some very good software and completely ruined it for the rest of us by not doing anything with it.

RE: ...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/21/2012 12:07:24 PM , Rating: 2
I love all the examples and sourced evidence you provide for these claims.

Look I'll just put this in terms maybe you can understand: Google rocks your dumb face off.

RE: ...
By Dug on 9/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: ...
By Cheesew1z69 on 9/21/2012 3:40:55 PM , Rating: 5
If YOU are going to make claims, YOU need to back it up, don't expect others to do YOUR work for you...

RE: ...
By kdogg4536 on 9/22/2012 5:16:19 AM , Rating: 3
Google bought up those 115 companies therefore they are now Google's property. Those ideas that you refer to as "theirs" are no longer "theirs" as Google now owns them. They can do with them as they see fit. WTF is your problem. Companies, software, IP get purchased all the time.

Google is just fighting fire with fire.

By cutthroat tactics, must be referring to whipping out the old wallet.

I wish all software companies locked me into their platform the way Google offering compelling products that I have yet to directly pay a single cent for.

RE: ...
By Solandri on 9/22/2012 2:42:50 PM , Rating: 2
And you really believe that Google doesn't want to lock you into their platform?

What makes you think Google wants to lock me into their platform? There are a bunch of other market apps out there if I don't like Google's Play store. Heck, if Apple wanted to make an App Store for Android, they could. Or I can download and install any app I find on any website via my phone's browser. Or if a friend gives me an app on a CD or I write a custom app, I can easily sideload it because Android devices appear as simple USB storage devices when you connect them to a computer.

And they are open to the world?

They are so open both Amazon and Barnes & Noble took the Android OS source code, made custom proprietary versions, and released very successful tablets based on those custom versions of Android. A healthy user community takes the source code and provide upgrades to the latest version of Android even to devices whose manufacturers and carriers have refused to upgrade. How much more open do you want?

RE: ...
By topkill on 9/21/2012 12:34:15 PM , Rating: 2
Totally wrong. I have nothing against Apple. I'm against whoever is leading the charge to litigation and that is Apple the majority of the time these days.

They've decided to litigate to wipe out competition. If they want to start just producing products again and competing on a level playing field then more power to them.

Google is clearly trying to force Apple to cross license so they can back them off their other law suits.

RE: ...
By BifurcatedBoat on 9/21/2012 1:32:53 PM , Rating: 2
This is the corporate version of a war. After the enemy bombs one of your cities, it's expected that you'll attack back.

At least for the time being, it appears that Google is doing this in a defensive manner. If they started using those patents to attack other companies in an offensive manner as Apple has done, then that would be different.

RE: ...
By GotThumbs on 9/21/12, Rating: 0
RE: ...
By Silvio on 9/21/2012 3:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
Oh, look. We've modelled everything our country does after Football.

RE: ...
By rs2 on 9/21/2012 9:18:56 PM , Rating: 2
It's not weird at all. Apple started the frivolous patent lawsuits.

Granted, two wrongs don't make a right, but it's fitting to see Apple getting a taste of its own medicine for once. And sometimes you just have to fight fire with fire.

So by a score of two idiomatic expressions to one, Google is in the right here.

RE: ...
By Reclaimer77 on 9/22/2012 1:25:36 PM , Rating: 2
Google didn't start this nonsense. But I'm reminded of a Babylon 5 quote with this topic...

"You cannot win this war. You can only survive it! And we intend to."

RE: ...
By OCedHrt on 9/23/2012 6:16:36 AM , Rating: 2
That's because at this point it is just returning the fire.

RE: ...
By tamalero on 9/24/2012 11:27:03 AM , Rating: 2
probably because people sick of apple doing bullsh1t legal actions.
so they are so sick.. they would love to see them getting hit back with the same.. even if its the mighty google.

RE: ...
By woody1 on 9/28/2012 9:43:51 AM , Rating: 2
Google is fighting against Apple terrorism. Given the insanity of the patent laws, the only way to fight is using the same methods. Note that Apple started this war, not Google.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads

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