German court backs LPKF in Motorola dispute

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A German court has told Motorola it must stop selling cell phones which have antennas made with a patented plastic electronics process.

LPKF Laser & Electronics, based in Garbsen, Germany, said it has won a preliminary victory in a legal dispute concerning the infringement of its patent for Laser Direct Structuring (LDS). On July 8, the Mannheim Regional Court ordered Motorola Deutschland and Motorola Mobility USA to stop selling cell phones in Germany that infringe the patent and ordered Motorola Deutschland to recall all cell phones that infringe the patent from commercial customers. The court also ruled that both defendants must pay compensation.

The judgment may be appealed, but Motorola has not said whether it will do so. When contacted by European Plastics News, Motorola said it would comply with the court’s decision by selling phones that use alternative technology.

“We are disappointed in the decision but Motorola has taken steps to avoid any interruption in supply or recall issues by using authorized, non-infringing components in its phones,” said William Moss, in Motorola Mobility’s corporate communications department.

The LDS process was developed by LPKF to tap into the growing market for molded interconnect devices (MIDs), in which injection molded components have embedded circuit traces, thereby reducing the size and cost of electronic components. In LDS, the component is molded using a polymer with a metal additive, which is activated by a laser that writes the course of the later circuit trace on the plastic.

LPKF said LDS has increasingly been used by electronics companies to produce complex antennas for cell phones or tablet PCs. But in 2013, the patent was declared invalid in China.

“LPKF subsequently submitted an application to reopen proceedings, which China’s Supreme People’s Court accepted for review. Furthermore, LPKF is systematically taking action against cell phone manufacturers that bring counterfeit LDS components into circulation outside China,” said the company in a statement.

LPKF has not named the other companies it is taking action against.

Ingo Bretthauer, CEO of LPKF, said he feels vindicated by the judgment against Motorola in his fight for the LDS patent: “The more attractive a patent is, the harder you have to work to defend it. We will continue to fight for our patent in China and systematically take action against infringers outside China. This is part and parcel of a technology company’s everyday business.”