Apple has won a significant battle in its ongoing patent war with Motorola Mobility as a German court ruled this week that Motorola cannot block the sales of iPads and iPhones while the case is under appeal.

Motorola Mobility won an injunction at the Mannheim Regional Court last December that forced Apple to stop selling iPads and iPhones through its German online store. The injunction had been on hold pending the ruling by the appeals court in Karlsruhe.

The case, which is likely to drag on for at least another year, centres around an essential 3G patent held by Motorola Mobility. Essential patents are those necessary for products to operate according to developed industry standards. Because they are crucial for all market players, the holders of standard essential patents are legally required to license them to any interested third parties on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

Apple alleges that Motorola Mobility is not honouring those terms, a complaint it has also made to the European Commission. The Commission recently approved Google's plans to take over Motorola Mobility.

"In practical terms, they're not going to shut down any Apple products in Germany with FRAND patents for a year or so, and even further down the road, it's probably not going to happen," said patent expert Florian Mueller. "If Google's and Motorola's strategy was mutually assured destruction, they have to re-evaluate their plan at this critical juncture."