Apple files patent complaint against Motorola, asks for EU investigation

Here’s the latest punch in the ongoing mobile-device patent brawl: Apple has filed an official complaint with the European Commission against Motorola Mobility for violating agreements to fairly license standards-essential patents. The action comes just days after the U.S. and E.U. approved Google’s purchase of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion.

Motorola revealed the complaint Friday in its annual report with the SEC, which reads:

On February 17, 2012, the Company received a letter from the European Commission, Competition Directorate-General, (the “Commission”) notifying it that the Commission has received a complaint against Motorola Mobility, Inc. (“MMI”) by Apple, Inc. (“Apple”) regarding the enforcement of MMI’s standards-essential patents against Apple allegedly in breach of MMI’s FRAND commitments. Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents. Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents.”

The Motorola patents in question are included in the 17,000 patents Google will get its hands on when its purchase of Motorola Mobility is complete. The patents are to be licensed on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms. When a technology is classified as FRAND, the owner of the patent must license it to other companies for a fee, since the technology is considered essential to an industry.

Two days ago, Apple won a dispute with Motorola in German courts over its “Slide to unlock” feature. The courts said two Motorola phones were violating Apple’s patent and now Apple can push to have the devices removed from the market.

In a recent letter to the iEEE standards association, Google said it would continue to license all standards-essential patents under the same conditions as Motorola Mobility, and for the same maximum 2.25 percent royalty of the net selling price — that’s the full price of a tablet or smartphone before any subsidies.

If patent war play-by-plays are your thing, follow Florian Mueller’s exhaustively thorough FOSS Patents blog.

Fencing image via ShutterStock