Some Moto phones are getting banned in Germany. Should US buyers be worried?

We regularly hear about patent battles: in fact, these things have been a constant in the tech world since the dawn of time. It’s a constant thing: somebody stole someone’s invention (or did they?) and a legal fight follows.

Rarely are those very impactful for regular buyers. However now, resulting from a patent dispute, some Motorola phones, including Edge 50 models, are banned in Germany. Should USA Motorola fans be worried? Let’s discuss it!

What is this fight all about?

In our case, it’s a WWAN module patent that’s in dispute. InterDigital, a technology research and development company, is claiming that certain Motorola and Lenovo devices are infringing on its WWAN module patent.

WWAN stands for Wireless Wide Area Network. It’s a network that connects to the internet using cellular technology and is basically behind GSM, UMTS, LTE, and 5G connectivity. Therefore, devices that support one of those (including the latest Edge 50 series by Motorola) are currently banned from sales in Germany, as the Munich I District Court in Germany ruled in favor of InterDigital.

So far, other countries haven’t banned the affected Moto phones. Lenovo plans to appeal the ban, as the WWAN module by InterDigital is a standard essential patent (SEP).

In fact, SEPs should be available to license at ‘fair and reasonable terms’, whatever this means. According to InterDigital, Lenovo didn’t meet its demands for fair and reasonable licensing terms. On the other hand, Lenovo believes InterDigital is asking for too much money to license a SEP. So that’s the gist of the conflict at hand.

Oppo and OnePlus had a similar thing happen to them recently

Let’s now talk about similar situations that occurred recently and try to forecast how this patent battle may go. We have Oppo and OnePlus’ patent dispute with Nokia. After losing the patent battle in 2023, the sales of phones from these companies (including phones from Vivo) were suspended in Germany and several other European markets. Oppo stopped selling its products in Germany first in the summer of 2022, then the other two companies joined. The dispute was once again focused on connectivity patents, and more specifically, 5G.

In January 2024, Nokia and Oppo reached a deal that made it possible for phones from Oppo, OnePlus, and Realme to be sold in the previously unavailable markets once again. So in total, the situation spanned out for around a year and a half (from the moment Oppo phones stopped being available in Germany).

The situation with Oppo and Germany (and a couple of other European markets) did not affect American customers. First off, Oppo doesn’t officially sell its phones in the U.S., so there’s that.

Meanwhile, OnePlus phones are selling in the U.S. and they never stopped being available despite the ban in Germany – OnePlus phones are available from its official stores, as well as U.S. retailers such as Best Buy and Amazon.

My main point here being: US customers had nothing to worry about Oppo’s ban in Germany. On top of that, even if things were to get worse (which they didn’t, but hey) fans would have had just a year and a half of dreaming about OnePlus phones (or even less, given the fact how important the U.S. market is to companies). Something in those lines isn’t particularly dramatic, in my opinion. And most people don’t buy a new phone every year, too.

The big deal, or the ‘worst-case scenario’: the Apple Watch Series 9 pulse oximetry patent dispute

Of course, we need to also briefly look at something that did affect US customers, and that’s the infamous Apple Watch Series 9 ban. In 2023, the US’s ITC ruled that Apple had infringed on two patents from Masimo, a health technology company, over its blood oxygen monitoring feature on the Apple Watch. Thus it was ruled that an import ban was to be put in place for the Apple Watch Series 9 and the Apple Watch Ultra 2.

Apple tried to postpone the ban but was unsuccessful. On December 22, 2023, Apple had to stop selling its newest watches in the U.S. On December 27 though, the federal appeals court temporarily paused the ban. Then Apple was able to come up with a workaround and continue selling its timepieces… without the disputed blood oxygen feature.

This is what I consider the ‘worst-case scenario’ when it comes to patent battles and mobile tech. And still, it isn’t that terrible – after all, only the people who really want the blood oxygen feature will be disappointed by the unfolding of events.

But this was a legal battle in the U.S.

There is an important distinction to be made here: Masimo and Apple are both American companies, and the legal battle was held in the U.S. In Oppo’s case, we’re talking about a Chinese company (Oppo) facing a Finnish company (Nokia). In our Motorola case, we have a Chinese company (Lenovo) vs an American company (InterDigital), but the legal battle is being held in Europe.

The legal systems in the US and Germany operate independently. A ruling in Germany doesn’t automatically translate to the same outcome in the States. For a similar ban to happen in the USA, a separate legal process would need to occur, involving different patents and potentially different outcomes.

So, how much should we worry about the Moto situation?

Although nobody has yet to figure out how to predict the future (and boy, have we been trying, ever since Mesopotamian astrology was invented), I can safely say that the Motorola ban won’t really affect US buyers. We will need a U.S. legal battle for any impact on U.S. buyers to occur.

And also, usually, those patent battles don’t end up in the worst-case scenario. It’s possible that Motorola will be able to reach an agreement with InterDigital. It’s also possible that it won’t immediately do so, but similarly to the Oppo situation, will come to an agreement later, maybe in a year or two. Even so, for now, the ban is only for Germany, and even if it spreads, it will be contained within the EU.

For the tech enthusiasts out there, it’s natural to worry about how such battles might affect you. But we can see that usually the customer side effects are minimal. Tech companies are very competitive and eager to keep their fans happy. Yep, this means they’re quick to adapt and ensure product availability.

So, if you’re a fan of Motorola, rest assured – there’s no reason to worry just yet.

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