Why German court ruled against Apple’s video streaming patent

The ruling could force Apple to remove some video streaming features from the popular products sold in Germany.

Michaela Rehle/Reuters
An Apple logo is seen at the Apple store in Munich, Germany.

Apple’s video streaming features face a gloomy future in Germany, following a court’s decision ruling against Apple’s patents.

Citing violation of copyrights, OpenTV – owned by Swiss company Kudelski – filed a lawsuit against Apple in 2014, alleging that the company’s streaming technologies used in its several products, including Apple TV, iPhones, iPad, Mac computers, the iTunes music service, and the Quicktime video software, infringed on OpenTV’s patents, Engadget reports.

"The claim is predominantly valid and well-founded," said Dusseldorf court in its Tuesday ruling, Reuters reports.

The ruling, issued by a three-judge panel at the Dusseldorf district court, could force Apple to remove some video streaming features from its popular products sold in Germany. But since it will affect almost all of Apple’s products, the company is expected to appeal, though it has not yet said if it will do so. If the company fails to comply it may face huge fines – up to 250,000 euros per infringement

OpenTV – founded in 1994 – is known as a pioneer of the interactive television technology industry. It currently provides software used in several platforms including video-on-demand, personal video recording, and enhanced television platforms used by DISH Network, QVC, and CNN, reports Appleinsider.

This isn’t the first time the company is suing Apple. Last year, OpenTV filed a similar lawsuit in the United States alleging that Apple infringed on three of its products. The case is still ongoing.

Apple has also been involved in several patent battles including one with Samsung Electronics, in which a US court ruled in favor of Apple and ordered Samsung to stop using the software in question in the United States, Bloomberg reported.

The ruling also comes at a time when the European Union is finalizing on an Unitary Patent System (UPS) that is set to take effect in 2017. The UPS is intended to provide more protection to inventors in the EU. A Unified Patent Court which offers a single, specialized patent jurisdiction will also be established alongside the UPS.

Establishing the UPS would mean even more rigorous evaluation of companies like Apple, experts say. The EU already imposes a lot of limitations on the ability of companies to license technology.

Patent wars could be avoided if countries observed rigorous evaluations before issuing patents, says Benoît Battistelli, President of the European Patent Office (EPO).

"First, we have to ask ourselves why this ‘patent war’ is happening mainly in the US and not in Europe. The reason is because there are many patents in the US granted to Apple which would have not been granted in Europe, because we are more rigorous and more selective that in the US,” he says in an interview with EurActiv.com

“In my view, this ‘patent war’ is largely due to a dysfunction of the US system, and the fact that there are some fields, such as businesses methods, that you can patent in the US but not in Europe.”

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