Infringement case suspended while Samsung tests validity of Apple's 'pinch-to-zoom' claim

For the second time in two weeks a court in Mannheim, Germany, has agreed to wait while Samsung challenges Apple's intellectual property

Samsung Electronics may challenge the validity of Apple's intellectual property claims before the Regional Court in Mannheim, Germany, rules on whether the company has infringed them, the court said on Friday. It is the second time in two weeks that the Mannheim court has decided to wait for a validity verdict from the Federal Patent Court before ruling on an infringement case.

The Regional Court in Mannheim was set to rule in a case Apple brought against Samsung alleging that the South Korean electronics manufacturer had infringed on a utility model, a patent-like intellectual property right available under German law. According to Apple, Samsung's touch devices infringe on its utility model for "List Scrolling and Document Translation, Scaling, and Rotation on a Touch-Screen Display."

The court decided to suspend the lawsuit pending a validity case filed with the German Federal Patent Court, Mannheim Regional Court spokesman Joachim Bock said in an email.

Last Friday the Mannheim court also decided to suspend another case pitting Apple against Samsung while the Federal Patent Court hears Samsung's challenge to the validity of an Apple patent related to photo galleries.

While German judges can decide to wait for the result of a challenge to a patent's validity before finding that the patent has been infringed and granting an injunction, such a move is unusual. In the majority of German patent cases judges are inclined to grant an injunction before the Federal Patent Court rules on validity.

The Federal Patent Court did not immediately respond to a request for information concerning Samsung's challenge to the utility model's validity. Last Friday it said there are validity cases pending between Apple and Samsung, and that while no date had been set for oral proceedings the cases are most likely to begin at the end of this year or the beginning of next year.

The Regional Court in Mannheim was also set to rule Friday on Motorola Mobility's allegation that Microsoft infringed its patent entitled "Multiple Pager Status Synchronization System and Method," also known as the push notification patent.

However, the lawsuit was reopened Friday because Microsoft presented new facts, Bock said. "The court proposed to continue in a written procedure," he said, adding that Motorola and Microsoft must agree to that. Microsoft welcomed the court's decision to look more closely at the case.

Motorola had more success when it asserted the same patent against Apple's iCloud and MobileMe push services earlier this year. A German court ruled in February that Apple had infringed on Motorola's push patent, forcing Apple to turn off push email for MobileMe and iCloud users in Germany.

Loek covers all things tech for the IDG News Service. Follow him on Twitter at @loekessers or email tips and comments to loek_essers@idg.com

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