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Motorola sues Apple over patents, probably with Google's blessing

January 25, 2012 |  6:08 pm

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The power of mobile technology: Never before have consumers been able to hold so many lawsuits in their hand.

Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. has just thrown another baton in the smartphone lawsuit parade that has stretched to courtrooms across the globe, as phone-makers sue one another over similarities in their mobile devices, which are packed with patent-protected circuits and widgets from dozens of companies.

Motorola has  filed suit against Apple Inc., purveyor of the mega-blockbuster iPhone (the device lifted Apple to $46 billion in sales in its most recent quarter).  Apple is an increasingly bitter rival of Google Inc., which agreed to buy Motorola in August, a deal that is still awaiting regulatory clearance.

As patent observer Florian Mueller noted, Google probably had to approve Motorola's lawsuit, given that part of the buyout terms appear to forbid Motorola from filing lawsuits without Google's explicit permission.  Google has not directly sued or been sued by Apple in this matter -- the two compaies are fighting their legal war by proxy.

Phones that run Google's Android operating system have collectively outsold the iPhone, and Apple is none too happy about that.  The Cupertino electronics maker has initiated a flurry of lawsuits against Android phone manufacturers, including Samsung Electronics and HTC Corp., alleging that the companies "slavishly copied" the iPhone's signature look.

But Apple is finding that big legal wins are hard to come by.

Now Motorola is trying to make things even more difficult for its rival. In its second action against Apple in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida, the company wants the court to ban iPhone sales.  Motorola alleges that Apple devices infringe on six of its patents, including one for a phone with a "concealed antenna," and another about keeping data on "multiple pagers" synchronized.  Motorola, as children of the 1990s will recall, made a lot of pagers -- they still do.

For updates in this saga, make sure to keep your pagers on.

RELATED:

Apple loses bid to block U.S. sales of Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

Apple vs. Samsung: Galaxy Tab 10.1 sales ban lifted in Australia

ITC sides with Apple over HTC in initial ruling on patent suit

-- David Sarno

Image: "Hungry Evil Android".  Credit: asgw / Flickr

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