Apple sues Motorola over smartphone software

By Dow Jones Newswires-Wall Street Journal
Posted Nov. 1, 2010 at 9:47 a.m.

Apple Inc. sued Motorola Inc., alleging that the company’s smartphone lineup and the operating software it uses infringe on the iPhone-maker’s intellectual property.

The two lawsuits came after Motorola sued Apple in October for patent infringement and were the latest skirmish in a long-running series of disputes in the fiercely competitive smartphone industry.

Apple, based in Cupertino, Calif., filed the suits in U.S. district court in Wisconsin. Since introducing the iPhone three years ago, Apple has become a major player in the mobile-phone market as consumers have snatched up its sleek touch-screen devices. Phones are now Apple’s biggest business, accounting for 43% of its revenue.

But the company is facing strong competition from the explosive growth of smartphones powered by Google Inc.’s Android operating system. Motorola’s fast-selling Android phones, particularly those marketed under Verizon Wireless’s Droid lineup, have played a big role in establishing Google-powered phones as viable alternatives to the iPhone.

Apple, in its complaints, alleges that Motorola smartphones, including those in its Droid lineup, violate six Apple patents covering touch-screen and multitouch technology, as well as ways to display, access and interact with information on the phone. Apple is requesting a judge award damages and attorney’s fees and that the court stop Motorola from selling the products. The suits also single out the operating system as well.

Schaumburg-based Motorola said it would contest the lawsuits.

“Motorola has a leading intellectual-property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry, and we intend to vigorously defend ourselves in this matter,” the company said. “We are confident in our position and will pursue our litigation to halt Apple’s continued infringement.”

An Apple spokesman declined to comment beyond its filings.

The latest dispute underscores how important touch-screen technology has become. Though it was innovative when Apple introduced the iPhone, touch screens are now common in smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile devices, raising the stakes in ownership of the technology.

At the same time, competition between Apple’s iPhone and phones powered by Android software has intensified, prompting a rare appearance by Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs on the company’s latest earnings call, in which he criticized Google’s technology.

Apple in March sued another prominent producer of Android phones, Taiwan’s HTC Corp., alleging similar violations. Suits have been piling up in the smartphone business. Microsoft Corp. sued Motorola last month over phone patents, and Nokia Corp. and others also are tangled up in the disputes.

Attacking Google directly isn’t very effective, analysts have said, because the company gives away Android free. But handset makers selling Google-powered phones have revenues for Apple to go after.

“Apple’s coming under assault now and they’re using every tool at their disposal to try and hold the fort,” said Edward Snyder, an analyst for Charter Equity Research, which specializes in the mobile industry. But he said he didn’t expect the suits to have a major consequence.

Mark Kesslen, an intellectual-property lawyer with Lowenstein Sandler, said the patent wars are a way for rivals to hobble each other. “They want to beat you in the marketplace and they’re going to use their patent portfolio at the same time to try to slow you down and squeeze you,” he said.

The stakes are high for Motorola and Apple. Motorola plans to split off its cellphone unit into a separate business, and Android is the sole operating system Motorola uses for smartphones. Sales of Android-based phones propelled the mobile-devices division’s revenue up 20 percent in the latest quarter from a year earlier as Motorola shipped 3.8 million smartphones.

The unit posted an operating profit of $3 million, moving into the black a quarter earlier than forecast. But some analysts have said Motorola could lose significant sales when Apple starts selling its iPhone through Verizon Wireless, which is expected to begin in the first quarter. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture of Verizon Communications Inc. and Vodafone Group PLC, has been an important Motorola partner.

Read more about the topics in this post: , , ,

Companies in this article


Read more about this company »


Read more about this company »


Read more about this company »


Read more about this company »


  1. Brian Nov. 1, 2010 at 11:11 a.m.

    One final reason not to purchase a “me Too”. You really don’t have to have what everyone else has. Besides the fact that the technology is almost obsolete before the lawsuit and all of it’s inevitable appeals are done. Freakin’ lawyers are the only ones that get anything out of it as usual.

  2. Gregory Nov. 1, 2010 at 12:03 pm

    I hope Apple loses. Arrogant company, greedy company and totally a company that is strictly intersted in making money. You can’t modify an apple product, no third-party accesories for an apple product and only apple can fix apple products. When that happens, this allows Apple to gouge you for so much money it is absurb.

    I have an Apple i-phone and frankly I hate it. It is too restrictive. Can’t modify the Apple i-phone or any stupid Apple product for anything.

    I really hopping Microsoft wins and sends Apple back to its greedy little hole they come from.

  3. Frank Nov. 1, 2010 at 12:18 pm

    LOL at Greg’s comment. A company that’s interested in making money! That’s insane! LOL Also, Microsoft is just as greedy as Apple.

    The modification part of your argument I can agree with. Everything else was just plain stupid.

  4. ironyisoverrated Nov. 1, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    It’s Apple’s bimonthly reminder that the US patent system is a complete failure at regulating software innovation. The patent office gives out patents based on the vaguest descriptions accompanied by cartoonishly simple prior art. It’s a farce, one that all the big corporations use to game the entire system to their advantage. Apple is just one of the more egregious offenders. The fact of the matter is that a software patent should only be given if a company wishes to protect the specific code architecture that makes the software possible. Neither Apple nor any of its competitors should be granted patents for a stack of vague, half baked concepts that are only meaningfully engineered AFTER receiving a patent. This applecart before the horse system absolutely stifles innovation.

  5. Gregory Nov. 1, 2010 at 12:41 pm


    It dosen’t stifle innovation. It keeps innovation affordable. In a world where technology is so important, it is very ignorant to have technology to only have a small segment of the population that can afford it. Ever think about that?

  6. Jeeper Nov. 1, 2010 at 1:24 pm

    I’m surprised Jobs hasn’t sued his grandmother…yet.

  7. Spin_Doktor Nov. 1, 2010 at 4:17 pm

    Years ago when Microsoft came out with Windows, Apple sued them for the graphical user interface. Just one problem with that, Apple didn’t create GUI, it was Xerox. I suspect something similar is going on here, I personally wouldn’t trust Jobs to hand out halloween candy.