Apple Targets Motorola With Tablet Complaint

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Apple is looking to follow up its injunction success against Samsung with a new lawsuit against Motorola

Apple continues to use the legal system to take the fight to its Android tablet rivals, after details emerged of its legal complaint filed with a German court. The document suggests that Motorola could be the next tablet player in its crosshairs.

The latest legal manoeuvring by Apple to destroy its tablet competition came to light in a blog posting by intellectual property analyst Florian Muller. He cited the recent court win by Apple in Germany, after the iPad maker succeeded in gaining a preliminary injunction against Samsung’s Galaxy Tab 10.1 tablet.

Apple Courts Controversy

Samsung is currently appealing against the decision and was angry that the ban had been imposed “without any hearing or presentation of evidence from Samsung”. But a similar injunction was also granted in Australia last week and it is facing a court appearance in the Netherlands for another hearing that could complete the European Union ban.

According to Muller however, about the same time as Apple made the motion for a preliminary injunction against Samsung, Apple also filed a complaint with the same court over the design of the Motorola Xoom tablet.

Muller pointed to a passage in the Samsung complaint that mentions two other lawsuits Apple instigated against iPad competitors – Motorola and a local German company named JAY-tech.

“That passage says that Apple filed with the same court (District Court of Dusseldorf) a complaint over the design of the Motorola Xoom, but it doesn’t state whether that complaint included a request for a preliminary injunction,” wrote Muller. “While it’s not stated explicitly, I suppose that the complaint against Motorola also asks the court for an EU-wide injunction – but perhaps just for a permanent injunction without a previous preliminary one.”

Motorola Cries “No Merit”

A Motorola spokesperson told CNET that the company plans to “vigorously defend Motorola’s own product designs” and that the Apple lawsuit has “no merit”.

According to Muller, Apple and Motorola have been suing each other over more than 40 US patents, with legal action reportedly kicking off in October last year. Motorola is awaiting an ITC hearing over its complaint against Apple. Likewise Apple also has an ITC complaint going against Motorola.

“It’s clear that Apple is determined to assert its different intellectual property rights – hardware patents, software patents, and design-related rights – against Android device makers,” wrote Muller. “While Apple appears to place particular emphasis on lawsuits over tablet computers in its European design-related lawsuits, I believe the reason is that a preliminary injunction can’t be requested in Germany if the right holder has been aware of an infringement for too long.

“There isn’t a clear statutory limit, but German lawyers usually discourage such motions unless they are filed within one month of finding out about an infringement,” he continued. “It’s possible to get permanent injunctions even against older products, but for preliminary ones there must be a particular sense of urgency. It’s possible that Apple has also been aware of the Xoom for too long to file for a preliminary injunction at this stage.”

Legal Fight

Apple’s decision to try and take out its Android tablet competitor by legal means comes amid ongoing indications that the Apple iPad is winning the tablet war, hands down. Indeed Forrester recently warned that rival tablet makers will have to drastically cut their tablet prices in order to win back market share from Apple.

Apple’s decision to go after Samsung and its Galaxy Tab makes some sense, as it was viewed by many as the most credible challenger to Apple’s tablet crown (until Amazon’s tablet offering later this year).

It is fair to say that Motorola has been struggling to make an impression with its Xoom tablet, espicially after it opted for a “premium” price tag for the device. Last month Motorola issued a profit warning for the third quarter after reporting a net loss in the second quarter.

Motorola chief executive Sanjay Jha admitted at that time he got the pricing of the Xoom tablet wrong, despite being warned earlier in the year by numerous analysts and the market, that Motorola was making a mistake with the high pricing approach.

Motorola has confirmed on Facebook that it is upgrading the Android operating system on the Xoom from Android 3.0 to Android 3.1 (aka Honeycomb).

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Author: Tom Jowitt
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