Updated (12:17 p.m.): The ban was lifted at the end of the day (German time) on Friday. See? We told you everything was going to be fine.
Original Post: Two new patent-related lawsuits in Germany threaten blocked the sale of all available iPhone models except for the new 4S. Don't freak out, fanboys. Everything is going to be okay.
This latest patent disput is just like all of the others. A Friday court ruling in Mannheim "granted Motorola a permanent injunction on Apple products that use its iCloud technology, specifically around push email services, and is based not on a recent patent but one that Motorola holds around paging devices (one of the company’s earliest wireless products)," PaidContent's Ingrid Lunden explains. This is the second iCloud-related sentence of sorts that Apple's been slapped with. In December, iPads and iPhones were pulled from the online Apple Store (though not from physical shelves) for another patent infringement-related ruling in that country. Apple's obviously appealing these cases, because as one of the world's largest (and richest) economies, Germany is a great place for Apple to make a lot of money -- they already have a lot of money but that's another blog post -- to be made off of iPhones and iPads in Germany. "Apple believes this old pager patent is invalid and we’re appealing the courts decision," the company said of the latest ruling. Last month, Apple explained to its customers, "Apple is appealing this ruling because Motorola repeatedly refuses to license this patent to Apple on reasonable terms, despite having declared it an industry standard patent seven years ago."
We've covered the unending software patent battles between big huge companies like Apple and Motorola and Google before. It would not be an overstatement to say that these sorts of cases tend to amount to a silly sword-fight between the companies' legal teams. Think of the sum of patents each tech company owns as a broadsword, they use as both a shield and a threat against others trying to move into their space. Cases that target specific patents like the ones in Germany would be the dagger a warrior would hide in his sock, so that once he's on your back struggling to protect yourself, he's got one more offensive up his sleeve. Or in his sock or whatever.)
It's a silly war, because it's a civil war of sorts, and the loser is inevitably the consumer. In Germany, buying an iPhone will be a little bit more inconvenient at least for a little while. Apple will appeal, and the ruling could get reversed or it could not. And if Germans really can't buy iPhones within their own countries borders, they'll buy an Android instead or simply run across the border to Poland or France or Denmark or Switzerland to pick one up. And the world will not end
From a 30,000-foot point-of-view, however, these software patent-related lawsuits is a danger to innovation, experts say. "Far from encouraging innovation, this proliferation of patents has seriously encumbered innovation in the software industry. Software is an abstract technology, and translating software functions into patent language generally results in patents with vague and uncertain boundaries," wrote Red Hat VP Rob Tiller in the brief. "Under the Federal Circuit's previous erroneous approach, the risk of going forward with a new software product now always entails an unavoidable risk of a lawsuit that may cost many millions of dollars in legal fees, as well as actual damages, treble damages, and an injunction that terminates a business. Only those with an unusually high tolerance for risk will participate in such a market." Again, Apple can afford a little bit of risk, these days.