Update: It appears that the ban has been lifted already
Apple lost its first significant patent battle today as it was forced to take 3G iPads and iPhone 3GS and iPhone 4’s off its virtual Apple Store shelves in Germany today.
The Mannheim Regional Court found Apple infringed a patent used to synchronize e-mail accounts. The ruling also allows Motorola Mobility to ask Apple for information about past sales and holds Apple liable for damages, Presiding Judge Andreas Voss said in delivering the ruling.
“The court has come to the conclusion that the wording of the patent does cover functioning that were at issue here,” said Voss. Apple “wasn’t able to convince the court that it isn’t infringing.”
The licenses at issue are supposedly “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND) patents that are considered industry standards. This follows a previous ruling in Motorola’s favor at the end of last year. The court order is directed against Apple Sales International in Ireland, which operates the online store of Apple in Europe.
Perhaps not comical for German consumers (but certainly elsewhere) is that German courts have also banned a number of Samsung products, including its first stab at a tablet, based on Apple patent complaints. Soon their only option will be Motorola XOOMs :P.
The iPhone 4S, Apple’s current flagship device, remains on sale at the German Online Apple Store. It is not immediately certain why this device does not fit into Motorola’s complaint— maybe it is just too new and was not included as part of the original complaint. In addition, the 4S (and CDMA iPhone 4 and iPad 2) use Qualcomm chips while the banned devices use Infineon baseband, so it is possible Qualcomm has patents that indemnify its chips.
In a statement to Businessweek, Apple said:
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