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Friday, December 02, 2011, 10:11 pm PT (01:11 am ET)

Apple's $2.7B Motorola bond actually yearly estimate, could be worth $16B

Motorola could be forced to pay up to $16.2 billion in guaranteed compensation if the company ultimately loses its patent dispute with Apple in Germany, as the $2.7 billion figure the iPhone maker was quoted as seeking in November has been clarified as a yearly estimate.

In a hearing on Friday, Apple made clear that it estimates a bond of $2.7 billion per year will cover the losses suffered if Motorola prematurely enforces possible injunctions on iCloud that are later overturned, according to Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents. He goes on to say that a lawyer on Motorola's legal team mentioned the case may last until 2018, potentially making the $2.7 billion yearly bond worth $16.2 billion.

The suit is part of an ongoing worldwide dispute, with Motorola alleging that Apple's iCloud infringes on certain existing synchronization technology patents. Although previous reports say that Motorola is likely to win at least one of the German suits, Apple still has the ability to set a bond to recoup damages in the event of a win during the appeal process, which could take years.

A permanent injunction can be "preliminarily enforceable" in Germany, meaning that if Motorola wins an initial court hearing it can enforce the ruling prior to appeal, however the company would be liable if the injunction is found to have been improperly granted at the end of the process.

Mueller explains that "the end of the process means that the ruling (or a subsequent appellate decision) can no longer be appealed, or it is appealed but the next higher court isn't willing to hear the appeal, or a party doesn't exercise its right to appeal."

Insurance against an improperly handled injunction comes in the form of a bond, which Apple was thought to have set at $2.7 billion in November, but has gone on to clarify that the figure was an annual payment estimate that would be applied to the number of years it takes to resolve the suit.

Despite the risk of bond liability, some patent holders sometimes go through with preliminary enforcement, possibly to leverage a settlement in a worldwide dispute. In this case, the two companies are waging a worldwide patent war.

It is unclear whether the court will agree to Apple's annual bond, however if the company can prove that the products in question can generate $2.7 billion per year in Germany, the figure may be accepted.

A hearing is set for Feb. 3, 2012, when Mueller expects the court to reveal its decision as to how much Apple's bond is worth.