Google's Motorola Mobility unit has filed a patent infringement complaint against Apple over a clutch of iPhone features, including its Siri voice control software.
Even as Apple's bitter battle with Samsung reaches its climax in a Silicon Valley court room this week, Google opened up a new front in the intellectual property war between Android and iOS.
It is the first time, since it acquired Motorola Mobility in May, that Google has used its patents to mount an attack on Apple.
The move has been anticipated, however. Motorola Mobility's portfolio of thousands of technology patents was the target of the $12.5bn deal more than its ongoing smartphone business.
The firm filed a complaint with the US International Trade Commission alleging infringement of seven of its patents by Apple. As well as Siri, the iPhone features it is claimed they cover include location reminders, e-mail notification and video playback.
"We would like to settle these patent matters, but Apple’s unwillingness to work out a license leaves us little choice but to defend ourselves and our engineers’ innovations,” Motorola Mobility said.
The ITC could ban Apple from importing iPhones into the United States if it eventually finds in Motorola Mobility's favour.
The firm was already part of the smartphone industry's patent wars when it was acquired by Google a year ago, in a deal that went through in May. It has been in dispute with Apple since 2010, when licensing talks failed.
In April the ITC found that Apple had infringed a Motorola Mobility patent relating to WiFi signalling. The agency is currently preparing its final ruling, which will consider a key issue around infringement of so-called "standards essential" technology patents that cover basic features.
Companies that help develop standards pledge to license patents covering those technologies to each other on fair and reasonable terms. Apple argues that issues over what is fair should be resolved in a federal district court, since the ITC doesn’t have the power to award damages.
It has also filed its own patent-infringement case against Motorola Mobility, in March the ITC said it was not infringing one Apple patent and that two other patents were invalid. Apple is appealing that decision.
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