Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been on a legal warpath in recent years, aggressively defending its patent portfolio in every arena possible - including many courtrooms across the world. However, now that Motorola Mobility is part of the Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) empire, the aggression shoe is on the other foot.
The International Trade Commission voted this week to begin an investigation into possible patent-infringement claims filed by Motorola Mobility, which claims that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) infringed on seven Motorola patents, with one specifically surrounding Apple's iMessage service. Since Motorola received the patent in 2006 - which allows a user to use a messaging client on a desktop operating system (like Apples OS X Mountain Lion, for example) and resume the conversation on a mobile device, (like an iPhone 4S) - the company claims that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) infringed this one patent in virtually every Macintosh computer, including the Mac Pro, iMac, Mac mini, MacBook Pro, and MacBook Air.
And overall, Motorola Mobility says that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) infringes on all seven patents encompassing all of its devices - including iPhones, iPads and iPods. Therefore, Motorola is also asking the ITC to invoke a U.S. import ban on all Apple devices that infringe these paents - which presumably would include the iPhone 5 and future iDevices, though they are not named in the complaint specifically.
Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has not responded publicly to the infringement claims, but Motorola Mobility claims in its ban request that such a ban on Apple devices would not hurt consumers. "With so many participants in the highly competitive Wireless communication, portable music, and computer market, it is unlikely that consumers would experience much of an impact if the requested exclusion orders were obtained."
How significant this allegation may be likely won't be known for months, but the fact that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is getting into another battle with Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) through the proxy of an Android OS partner is something to be watched by investors in Apple stock, including hedge-fund manager David Tepper of Appaloosa Management LP.