Apple Countersues Motorola over Droid

Expanding the complicated roundelay of mobile phone patent litigation, Apple filed suit against Droid-maker Motorola for alleged patent infringement related to technologies at the heart of the Android-based smartphones. The lawsuit was first reported on the Patently Apple blog.

In the suit, filed in U.S. district court in Wisconsin, Apple claims that Motorola smartphones, including the Droid lineup, violate six Apple-held patents including touch-screen and multitouch technology and the operating software on which the phones run. That software, of course, is Googles mobile OS Android which could lead one to conclude that Apple is suing Motorola rather than confronting the search giant head-on.

The suit comes just weeks after Motorola filed four pre-emptive suits against Apple, claiming that the iPhone infringes 18 patents held by the Schaumburg, Ill.-based maker of handsets and wireless networks.

After Apple’s late entry into the telecommunications market, we engaged in lengthy negotiations, but Apple has refused to take a license," Kirk Dailey, corporate vice president of intellectual property at Motorola Mobility, said in a prepared statement. We had no choice but to file these complaints to halt Apple’s continued infringement.

Meanwhile, Microsoft, which last month released its long-awaiting Windows Phone 7 operating system, is also suing Motorola, saying that the Android-based devices violate Microsoft patents on technologies that help make smartphones smart."

The mobile and wireless industry has been clouded almost since its inception by intellectual property disputes, and these latest lawsuits promise to make 2011 a banner year for tech and telecom law firms. Whether theyll actually result in any major shifts by the device- and software-vendors is another question. Its unlikely that any judge, or jury, will require Apple to stop selling iPhones or Motorola to stop selling Droids. Whats more likely is that the major vendors will reach some kind of truce, in the form of licensing agreements that dont seriously slow down the burgeoning smartphone market.

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