Is Apple Losing It?

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Oh, how quickly the tables can turn.

Just when Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL  ) thought it was making ground in its global nuclear patent war against frenemy conglomerate Samsung, multiple courts around the world have now sided against Cupertino.

Another brick in the wall
Earlier this year, Apple had won a sales injunction in a German court that blocked the sale of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the country. Sammy was blocked from distributing the tablet in Germany, while its German unit was banned from selling the device throughout the European Union. Samsung took the natural step of appealing the injunction as well as the bold move of slightly redesigning its iPad competitor. With the ball back in Apple's court, Apple proceeded to add the redesigned Galaxy Tab 10.1N to its hit list, asking the German court to include it in the injunction.

In the Netherlands, Apple won a ban on the Galaxy S II, Galaxy S, and Galaxy Ace smartphones, while Samsung lost its attempt to block iDevices. Naturally, Samsung intends to appeal. The duo also has cases still pending in Japan and France, although Samsung has all but lost its injunction request in France.

On the turning away
Heading down under, an Australian court had also initially sided with the Mac maker. An Australian judge banned the sale of the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was the cue for another Samsung appeal. Sammy scored a victory with the appeal, and the ban was promptly overturned, with the appeals court saying the ban was "not terribly fair" to Samsung, and that the original judge had erred. The ban was officially lifted today, freeing Samsung to resume peddling its wares.

Welcome to the machine
Back stateside, a U.S. judge has also sided with the Korean electronics giant by denying Apple's request for a similar injunction. District Judge Lucy Koh -- the same judge that called out Samsung's lawyers for not being able to distinguish the devices -- made Samsung's day by saying, "It is not clear that an injunction on Samsung's accused devices would prevent Apple from being irreparably harmed."

Have a cigar
Motorola Mobility
(NYSE: MMI  ) recently met Apple in German court as well. In November, Motorola won a symbolic victory whose impact was dubious at the time. Following up that initial win, Motorola has now won a preliminary injunction that could potentially block Apple from selling the iPhone and 3G iPad models throughout the European Union.

The ruling in Motorola's favor is preliminary, and only enforceable against Apple's Ireland-based subsidiary Apple Sales International, according to FOSS Patents. If Apple's appeal in the Motorola case proves unsuccessful, it will have no choice other than to license the patent from Motorola, since the patent in question relates to 3G technology, making it unrealistic to reengineer the device around the patent.

The victory also validates Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG  ) patent-related planned acquisition of Motorola, showing its intellectual property is worth fighting for. Churning out Android devices and set-top boxes are just perks for Big G. Motorola shareholders have already approved the deal -- who wouldn't, considering the healthy premium? -- yet regulators are still mulling it over.

These patent suits keep piling higher. It's become such a jumbled web of finger pointing -- even Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT  ) is in on the patent action -- that the ones gaining the most are probably the attorneys.

Shine on, you crazy diamond
In fairness, I don't blame Apple for defending itself from Samsung's copycat ways. Sammy has even put Apple's app icons in its Samsung stores, despite the obvious fact that you'll never find Safari or the App Store on a Sammy device.

After all, the late Steve Jobs did vow to "destroy Android" and "go thermonuclear war" on it in his official biography. With the global patent war quickly reaching thermonuclear proportions, we might as well call it World War 3P (the P is for patent).

Add Apple to your Watchlist to see if it can win World War 3P. As much as Apple hates Android, component suppliers love them both. Get access to this free report on 3 hidden winners of the iOS and Android revolution.

Fool contributor Evan Niu owns shares of Apple, but he holds no other position in any company mentioned. Click here to see his holdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Apple, Microsoft, and Google. Motley Fool newsletter services have recommended buying shares of Microsoft, Google, and Apple. Motley Fool newsletter services have also recommended creating bull call spread positions in Microsoft and Apple. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Read/Post Comments (6) | Recommend This Article (14)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 12:17 AM, 1984macman wrote:

    The tables are far from done turning. But gloat while you may, little Apple hater. It won't last.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 12:48 AM, Oldfool103 wrote:

    Where's the "Thumbs Up" button. "Little Apple hater;" I love that.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 2:07 AM, AussieMac wrote:

    Well it is Motley Fool! As explained with the Australian situation to allow a decision to ground the product in the preliminary hearings, could be seen as preempting due legal process in the real hearing.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 7:46 AM, RattyUS wrote:

    Evan, an interesting article full of misinformation.

    For example if you bothered to read the stuff that Florian Mueller has been posting you would see that none of this is as clear cut as you make out.

    For example yesterday Apple was complaining that Samsung were stalling in the US to try and keep stuff going for as long as possible. Samsung is being slow to deliver evidence to Apple which makes it hard for Apple to build a defense. It is not helped also by the fact that the same legal team that are working for Samsung are also working for Motorola Mobility. So now Samsung's lawyers are legally compelled to deliver the material Apple needs.

    "multiple courts around the world have now sided against Cupertino."

    They haven't sided on anything. They have had some temporary bans overturned ahead of the actual court cases.

    One wonders why Samsung took the lazy way out and attempted to pass off their devices as Apple's - certainly wouldn't be allowed in any other industry. Out of all the companies producing Android devices only one went out of its way to make it's hardware look like Apple's and the same company went out of their way to skin the OS to also resemble IOS.

    The German court issue with Motorola is in a European equivalent of a "rocket docket" court in the US. "Apple is certainly going to appeal this ruling to the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court and to request a stay for the duration of the appellate proceedings. Such a suspension may or may not be granted. If there's no stay, Motorola will have to decide whether to bear the risk of enforcing a ruling that might be overturned later. " Says Mueller, adding, "Yesterday I found out (from a French court decision) that Apple is also suing in Mannheim. They are asserting six patents against Samsung in that venue, which is probably the second center of gravity of worldwide wireless patent litigation now (second only to the ITC)."

    Apple are attempting to nullify the patents in question, and if successful, they would not have to pay the monies that Motorola "won" in this case. This is not merely a battle as you portrayed but a war and sometimes you lose some of the smaller battles to win the overarching war.

    Oh and the Pink Floyd references? Lazy journalism. Not big, not clever.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 10:28 AM, rlcato wrote:

    Wow! 2 negative comments in one week. Pity there so wrong.

  • Report this Comment On December 10, 2011, at 10:30 AM, rlcato wrote:

    Oops! They're. Their. There.

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