The US ITC said it will investigate if Apple has nicked Motorola technology in its iPhones, iPods, iMacs and tablets.
Motorola is asking for import bans on just about every iOS device, including the Mac OS X computer, claiming Apple's iMessage technology infringes a Motorola patent. On the whole, Motorola names seven patents, all of which are allegedly infringed upon by some or all of these iOS devices: the iPod Touch, iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4, iPhone 4S, and all three generations of the iPad. Presumably, the iPhone 5 will be complained about later.
This patent, filed for in 2001 and issued in 2006, covers a "System for providing continuity between messaging clients and method therefor." Motorola said that Apple's iMessage client for iOS and Mac OS X violates a claim in that patent covering "A plurality of messaging clients within a messaging communication system for providing continuity between the plurality of messaging clients comprising: a first messaging client, for establishing a first communication connection including a plurality of client data with a message server; and a second messaging client for receiving the plurality of client data from the first messaging client and for establishing a second communication connection including the plurality of client data with the message server."
iMessage provides a common messaging client between iOS and Mac OS X devices, with users being able to "start a messaging conversation on an OS X Mountain Lion device such as a MacBook Air, and continue the conversation on another device running the 'iMessage' messaging client on iOS 5 software, such as an iPhone 4S." This idea did not spring fully formed from the head of Steve Jobs but was already invented by Motorola, the ITC was told.
Motorola said that iMessage on the MacBook Air "establishes a first communication connection via WiFi or LAN or otherwise resulting in the exchange of data with Apple's message server." The iMessage messaging client on the iPhone 4S can establish a second communication via WiFi or 3G that results in the receipt of data from Apple's message server."
The ITC announcement that it will open an investigation into "certain Apple iPhones, iPods, iPads, and Apple personal computers” is a sign that the ITC thinks the claim might have legs. It does not mean that it thinks that it does yet.