Motorola is infringing on a Microsoft patent in its Android smartphones, a US International Trade Commission judge has said in an initial determination.
The ITC has found in Microsoft's favour against Motorola, in a preliminary hearing over whether the latter's Android phones infringe on Microsoft's patents. Photo credit: CNET News
If upheld in a final ITC decision in April 2012, the ruling would mean Motorola, which is in the process of being acquired by Google, would probably have to pay Microsoft damages. The manufacturer would also have to remove the offending feature, find a way to work around it, license the relevant patent from Microsoft, or stop selling Android handsets in the US.
The case is part of the volley of lawsuits, launched by Microsoft, Apple, Oracle and others, that is battering Google and the various manufacturers of Android handsets.
It also marks another episode in Microsoft's long-term quest to extract licensing fees from companies that make Linux or Linux-based products. Microsoft maintains that Linux infringes on several of its patents, although it has never been clear about which ones.
Android, the kernel for which is based on the Linux kernel, also supposedly violates multiple Microsoft patents. Microsoft has already succeeded in arranging patent licensing deals — the financial terms of which are always secret — with HTC, Samsung, Compal, Wistron, Acer, ViewSonic and General Dynamics Itronix.
Apple, by way of contrast, does not tend to license its technology to rivals, and its many court actions against Android manufacturers appear to be purely aimed at shutting down the competition's sales or forcing them to reduce the functionality of their devices.
Motorola has, like Barnes & Noble, been a notable holdout, refusing to pay Microsoft a levy on each Android handset it sells. Microsoft took Motorola to the ITC in October last year, and the two companies now have multiple suits aimed at each other.
ITC administrative law judge Theodore Essex ruled on Tuesday that Motorola was infringing on the '566 patent, but he also said the company was not infringing on six other patents that Microsoft had included in the suit. Microsoft had already taken two separate patents out of its original suit.
Like HTC earlier this week with its narrow loss against Apple, Motorola claimed Essex's judgment as a victory.
"We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favourable to Motorola Mobility," Motorola Mobility general counsel Scott Offer said. "[Essex's] initial determination may provide clarity on the definition of the Microsoft '566 patent for which a violation was found and will help us avoid infringement of this patent in the US market."
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