Reston, VA – November 24, 2010 – While consumers get to decide if they prefer Motorola’s cell phones to Apple’s, judges get to decide if the two companies are stealing each other’s intellectual property.
On Oct. 6, Motorola filed a patent-infringement claim against Apple before the U.S. International Trade Commission. Apple Computer counter-sued Motorola at the ITC on Oct. 29, and further upped the legal ante with a lawsuit in federal court in Madison, Wisc. Over the next few months, these courts get to decide if Apple is violating Motorola’s patents or if Motorola copied Apple’s trade secrets… or something between those two extremes.
The U.S. International Trade Commission has the power to ban imports of products that are found to infringe on U.S. patents. It is therefore within the commission’s power to ban either Motorola’s popular Droid line of cell phones or Apple’s massively successful iPhone, both of which are actually manufactured offshore. Additionally, the federal court in Wisconsin could assess damages that might rise to hundreds of millions of dollars, considering the value of the two companies’ cell-phone revenue.
Both Apple and Motorola (which will soon be spinning off its cell-phone products group into a new company called Motorola Mobility) have deep pockets and will survive the costs of lawsuits, but the larger threat to both is in the court of public opinion. If the courts find that Apple has copied Motorola’s patents, that will take some of the wind out of Apple’s technology leadership sails. If Motorola is found to be stealing Apple’s intellectual property, Motorola Mobility will be starting off its life with a strong handicap… and the next Droid phones might look and feel much different.
While you are chosing between a Droid and an iPhone, federal judges will be deciding just who is stealing from whom: Motorola or Apple. For more information on this case at the U.S. International Trade Commission, it is called “In the Matter of Mobile Devices and Related Software,” case 337-750.