Apple wins rubberbanding patent case against Motorola in Germany

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Apple has won a key patent case against Android in Germany against Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility, following a similar win against Samsung in the U.S.

Apple's '381 patent describes a rubber banding effect that indicates the end of a scrolling list or document has been hit by animating a stretchy, whimsical snap back effect.

In its case against Samsung, Apple's iOS head Scott Forstall testified that Steve Jobs was particularly annoyed to see other companies taking the invention and putting their name on it.

Forstall said the patent was "was just one of the things that Steve said [to Samsung], 'here's something we invented. Don't - don't copy it. Don't steal it.'"

After successfully winning a jury verdict finding infringement of the patent in its U.S. case against Samsung, Apple has now won a similar case against Motorola. Rather than a jury, the determination was made by a panel of German judges, according to a report by Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents.

Mueller wrote that Presiding Judge Dr. Peter Guntz of the Munich I Regional Court had, earlier today, announced the determination of his panel that a variety of Motorola Mobility tablets and smartphones had all infringed upon Apple's European patent EP2126678, the equivalent of its US '831 patent.

This allows Apple enforce an injunction against the accused devices after posting a 25 million Euro bond. Apple can also post another 10 million Euro bond to "obligate Motorola to destroy any infringing material," or force Motorola to do a recall if it posts another 10 million Euro bond. Motorola will also have to pay Apple damages for past infringement.

The patent decision does not stop Motorola from building competing devices however, as the company is free to develop original smartphones and tablets that do not infringe Apple's design.

Google's own base version of Android has already introduced a "glow" indicator that serves the same purpose, although as Mueller notes, "the glow does not solve the problem that the rubber-banding patent solves: by the time a user notices the glow, he or she has already instinctively pressed harder because of the impression that the device is not responding."

Mueller has earlier stated that he uses a Samsung Note "phablet" phone that uses the "glow" effect, making him familiar with the difference between the two user interface concepts. He concluded, "this injunction spells further degradation of the Android user experience."

The rubber banding patent is the third infringement injunction Apple has won against Motorola in Germany, following a "slide to unlock" and photo gallery "flip to navigate" rulings.

Mueller points out that the impact of Apple's injunctions against Mototola in German is relatively minimal give Motorola's limited market share in the country.

However, he notes, "outcome of those cases shows that Android has far bigger patent infringement problems than any piece of computer software has ever had in the history of the industry, and this has many of Google's hardware partners profoundly concerned."

Mueller also noted that while patent cases are complex often confusing, "there can be no confusion about the fact that Google is losing the smartphone patent war in the United States and in Europe. That's simply a fact that no reasonable person can deny when looking at the decisions that came down on both sides of the Atlantic."

Google paid an astounding $12.5 billion to acquire the struggling Motorola Mobility this spring, ostensibly to obtain a patent portfolio capable of defending Android licensees across a series of infringement cases worldwide.

However, its new subsidiary has failed to deliver much patent firepower, forcing Google to wage a series of battles claiming infringement of standards essential patents, which offer at most limited damages related to the Fair Reasonable and Nondiscriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms they have already been committed to as part of the standards process.

It appears Google's expensive acquisition was actually motivated by threats Motorola had made that involved both adopting Microsoft's Windows Phone platform and taking other Android licensees to court over a variety of patent claims.

Google's Android platform would be hurt far worse from patent infighting and the loss of its only significant, exclusive licensee than from cases asserted by Apple to force its various licensees to stop stealing its signature features, patented industrial design and trade dress.