Is Apple Losing It?
Dec 9th 2011 7:41PM
Updated Dec 9th 2011 7:42PM
Oh, how quickly the tables can turn.
Just when Apple (NAS: 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 (NYS: 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 (NAS: 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 (NAS: 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).
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At the time this article was published 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.
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