Apple Beats Samsung but Loses Patent Claim to Motorola

Apple, Samsung and Motorola are among the device makers who seem to spend as much time building lawsuits as smartphones. A day after winning a victory over Samsung, Apple lost a legal fight with Motorola.

Apple won a small victory over Samsung April 23 in a court in San Jose, Calif., Bloomberg has reported. Samsung reportedly failed to comply with court orders to produce documents relevant to its current battles with Apple over patent-infringement accusations related to Samsung€™s Galaxy smartphones and Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablets, among other devices.

Given Samsung€™s trespass, Apple was granted some €œmonetary sanctions€ but not its request that Samsung be prevented from selling its devices in this country.

So it goes with the mobile phone industry, and particularly the world€™s top two smartphone producers. The two companies account for nearly 50 percent of global mobile phone sales.

Since April 2011, by Bloomberg€™s count, Apple and Samsung have filed at least 30 lawsuits against each other on four continents. Both companies are planning to announce their most recent quarterly earnings, with analysts anticipating that, based largely on the success of their smartphones, each will report record earnings.

Intellectual property analyst Florian Mueller, in an April 24 blog post, scrutinized several aspects of Apple€™s current case against Samsung. The latter earlier fended off the former€™s attempts for a U.S.-wide ban on its products, and now, Muller explains, Samsung is trying to replicate its past success.

Nonetheless, Mueller wrote, €œI continue to believe that Apple may very well achieve at least a partial success with its appeal that would shift the goalposts in favor of its new motion.€

Mueller makes a number of interesting assertions, including one regarding whether Samsung€™s products, whether or not they do borrow from Apple too heavily, cause any real harm to Apple. Samsung has argued they don€™t, pointing to Apple€™s financial success and market-share growth.

€œI felt that Judge [Lucy] Koh partly applied an incorrect market definition,€ wrote Mueller, €œand the idea that a company that is doing fantastically well despite infringement of its intellectual property has to tolerate it until it€™s going down the tubes struck me as a problematic approach that the Federal Circuit might disagree with.€

Mueller also considers the argument regarding whether Samsung too closely copied Apple€™s slide-to-unlock feature. Samsung argues that its image doesn€™t slide €œcontinuously,€ as Apple€™s does, but that its lock image is replaced by a second image, and only the second image moves with the user€™s physical contact.

€œIf I were the judge, having looked in more detail now at how the slide-to-unlock circle of the Galaxy Nexus works,€ wrote Mueller, €œI would probably come down on Samsung€™s side on this one. I think the new slide-to-unlock patent is useful to Apple in order to ensure differentiation €¦ but after some further analysis I have serious doubt that the slide-to-lock circle infringes it.€

In summary, Mueller offers, €œI think it€™s unlikely that Apple€™s motion will fail entirely as its predecessor did.€

On April 24, in still another patent dispute, a judge with the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled against Apple, saying that it violated one of four Motorola Mobility patents being contested€”one related to 3G technology, according to Bloomberg.

An Apple spokesperson told Bloomberg that since a German court already ruled that Apple didn€™t infringe on the patent, €œwe believe we will have a very strong case on appeal.€

Motorola said in a circulated statement that it is pleased the €œinitial determination finds Apple to be in violation of Motorola Mobility€™s intellectual property, and look forward to the full commission€™s ruling in August.€

Highlighting the litigious nature of this highly competitive industry, Motorola also issued a second, nearly identical statement, swapping €œApple€ for €œMicrosoft.€ Motorola is about to be absorbed by Google and the company patents are expected to work as a way to defends its Android operating systems against claims by Apple and other companies.

According to Bloomberg, an ITC judge ruled yesterday that Microsoft was infringing on four Motorola patents related to WiFi and video-decoding standards. €œIf the commission agrees,€ the report continued, €œit could block exports of Microsoft€™s Xbox gaming system.€