Motorola has won an injunction against Windows 7 --- including Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player --- and the Xbox games console in a German court.
A court ruled that Microsoft, which remains locked in a patent battle with Motorola, should cease distribution, and recall and destroy its products from retail and online stores.
But the court's decision will not be enforced immediately. If you thought this was a clear-cut case of Microsoft using Motorola's patents without permission, think again.
The patents in question are EP 0538667 and EP 0615384, notes FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller, which date back to 1992 and 1994 respectively. The patents relate to the H.264 video compression standard.
One of the most popular video codecs around, H.264 is used by 80 percent of all digital videos. These patents are industry-essential and must be licensed on a 'fair and reasonable' (FRAND) basis because they can be crucial to making other products.
Microsoft wanted to use the patents, but Motorola demanded $4 billion in annual royalties. Motorola knew Microsoft wouldn't pay, and Microsoft certainly didn't.
Microsoft presented a case to the European Commission calling Motorola's practices "anti-competitive", after it was said to be charging too much for industry-essential patents. Apple also complained on a similar note.
The Commission is now investigating Motorola's behaviour to determine whether it falls foul of its antitrust laws in how it handles the licensing of patents. It stepped in to attempt to resolve the patent disputes, but found Motorola has made it difficult for other companies to use its patents on 'fair and reasonable' terms.
It comes only a few weeks since Microsoft announced it was to move its European distribution center to the Netherlands in a bid to avoid such legal tussles in the country, which has become a hotbed of court activity, notably with patents used as weapons.
While Microsoft may be in the right, because Motorola may have deliberately charged too much for the patents, it still fell foul of the German courts for using the patents without permission.
But the enforcement will not begin immediately, thanks to a temporary restraining order sought by Microsoft in a U.S. court.
On April 11, U.S. District Judge ruled in a similar case preventing Motorola from barring Microsoft from selling Windows and Xbox's in Germany. The U.S. courts will have to made a decision first on whether Motorola is breaching its promise to license patents fairly and at reasonable rates before any injunction granted to Motorola can go into effect in Germany.
A Motorola spokesperson said it was open to resolving the ongoing matter. "Fair compensation is all that we have been seeking for our intellectual property."
Microsoft was unavailable at the time of publication.
Image source: CNET.
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