Remember the recent reminder of why Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) wants to buy Motorola Mobility (NYSE: MMI ) ? Hint: It's not Motorola's actual business. That's right -- its patents!
Well, here's more evidence reaffirming that rationale: Back in December, Motorola was granted a preliminary injunction in Germany against Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) that had the potential to block Cupertino's 3G-enabled devices. The key word was "potential" since the overall impact was yet to be seen … until today.
A regional German court reaffirmed that initial decision by issuing a sales injunction against European sales subsidiary Apple Sales International, forcing Apple to remove all 3G-enabled devices other than the current iPhone 4S from its Online Store, including the older iPhone 3GS and four models of 3G iPads. The 4S wasn't covered in the initial complaint, but Motorola quickly addressed that with a new filing stateside.
The patent ruling concerned iCloud and push services, prompting Apple spokesman Alan Hely to comment, "Apple believes this old pager patent is invalid and we're appealing the court's decision." Hely also pointed out that the ban covered only Apple's Online Store, and that prospective buyers shouldn't have any troubles finding devices locally at Apple Retail Stores or through an authorized reseller.
In an almost-immediate turn of events, Apple was able to score a suspension of the injunction, with online availability returning "shortly," since Apple claims that Motorola "repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry-standard patent seven years ago."
Under FRAND -- or "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" -- terms, companies that own industry standard and essential patents are required to license them for the sake of competition. Apple's assertion that Motorola isn't playing fair could land Motorola in hot water with the European Commission, joining fellow Apple foe Samsung.
Bringing it all home is the fact that Motorola also recently won another International Trade Commission ruling in a defense against Apple shortly after similarly holding its own against Microsoft's (Nasdaq: MSFT ) Android bullying.
It looks like Motorola's patent portfolio might actually be worth $12.5 billion after all.
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