New MacBook Pros are here! Get the lowest prices anywhere: Apple Price Guides updated Oct 1st (exclusive coupons)
 


Friday, July 06, 2012, 02:25 pm PT (05:25 pm ET)

German court sets dates for Apple patent suits against Samsung, Motorola

A German court on Friday set the dates for two Apple lawsuits being leveled against Samsung and Motorola for alleged infringement of a multitouch patent that could result in a sales stoppage of handsets running the latest versions of Google's Android operating system.

The Mannheim court scheduled the hearings to begin on Aug. 31 for Apple case against Samsung and Sept. 21 for the Motorola suit after hearing arguments from all involved parties, reports The Wall Street Journal.

While Apple has seen success with German cases in the past, the case in question is leveraging a multitouch heuristics patent against the two companies' handset that use current iterations of Google's Android and not the most recent 4.1 Jelly Bean which will be making its way to handsets soon.

At issue is Apple's European Patent EP2098948 for a "Touch event model" that covers multitouch heuristics or how a device detects and correctly handles users' input. More specifically the patent describes how, depending on screen configuration of UI elements, software determines what touch events to recognize and which to ignore.

From the patent abstract:
This relates to multi-point and multi-touch enabled devices in general, and more specifically to recognizing single and multiple point and touch events in multi-point and multi-touch enabled devices.


It is unclear what damage can be done as a result of the German case as Google announced on Wednesday it is already preparing software workarounds to skirt an injunction of Samsung's Galaxy Nexus after Apple successfully argued an identical U.S. patent against the handset. The situation is similar to the 2011 German sales ban against the Galaxy Tab 10.1, which was resolved five months later when Samsung released a slightly modified version of the tablet dubbed the Galaxy Tab 10.1N, but is perhaps less difficult to sidestep as the issue is in regards to software rather than hardware design.

German Multitouch Patent

Illustration from Apple's "Touch event" European patent.
Source: European Patent Office


Android apps, however, could be affected by the changes to Google's OS as they are based on existing frameworks that would need to be rewritten to avoid conflicting with Apple's multitouch patent. Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents said an Apple win would portend a series of "far-reaching complications for many Android applications." The patent law analyst said the process of highlighting, copying and pasting text in an email is an example of functionality that could need tweaking. As Google would be forced to remove certain software assets, current Android owners could experience trouble with apps that take advantage of the redacted code.

The presiding judge at Friday's hearing said Apple's "patent has been granted and is binding" after noting that a patent can be ruled invalid if the invention is deemed to be common knowledge. While the statement appears favorable for the Cupertino-based company, the German court may find compelling evidence to rule the touch event patent invalid over the course of the lawsuit.