Motorola Android devices banned in Germany in Microsoft FAT spat

Motorola Android devices banned in Germany in Microsoft FAT spat

Summary: German's must be getting pretty annoyed with the constant barrage of technology injunctions. This time around -- and it's hard to keep up -- it's Motorola's Android devices that are subject to a sales ban.

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Just when you think the patent wars couldn't get any more confusing, Microsoft vs. Motorola just took a turn for the worst, and arguably it's the German people who ultimately suffer in the case.

In an almighty spat over Microsoft FAT patents, a German court has banned all Motorola devices running Google's Android mobile operating system. 

The Mannheim Regional Court ruled that Motorola had infringed the Redmond software giant's FAT patents on file storage systems and granted Microsoft's request for a sales ban on all affected devices. 

FOSS Patents author Florian Mueller nutshells it in a tweet: 

The pesky patent in question, EP 0618540, covers long-name and short-name file indexing. FAT is often used in Windows PCs, but also used in mobile devices for backwards compatibility. 

Motorola's Razr, Razr Maxx, and Atrix devices will be affected by the injunction, among others. 

In a statement, Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard said:

Today's decision, which follows similar rulings in the U.S. and Germany, is further proof that Motorola Mobility is broadly infringing Microsoft's intellectual property. We will continue to enforce injunctions against Motorola Mobility products in those countries and hope they will join other Android device makers by taking a license to Microsoft's patented inventions.

As is often the case, Microsoft will have to pay a bond of €10 million ($12.3m) to secure the injunction. Once it's paid, the mighty gavel of the German justice system will see all Motorola-branded Android devices in the country barred from sale. 

Microsoft will also be entitled to damages, though a figure has yet to be decided upon. 

However, the two companies came to blows over the same U.S. held patent, but the U.S. International Trade Commission threw out the case because of evidence submitted by Linux founder Linus Torvalds. 

Motorola will likely appeal the decision and seek a stay on the injunction, delaying the sales ban. However, if Microsoft posts the bond before the appeal is heard, it could still cause sales disruptions to Motorola's retail supply chain.

Mueller notes in a blog post that this is the third patent ruling in Microsoft's favour against Google-owned Motorola Mobility. On the global spectrum, ten patents belonging to Apple and Microsoft have been infringed based on court rulings by Android software. 

By buying Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, Google really brought the patent wars to home turf. 

Image credit: CNET.

Topics: Android, Google, Microsoft, Patents

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  • ....

    “However, the two companies came to blows over the same U.S. held patent, but the U.S. International Trade Commission threw out the case because of evidence submitted by Linux founder Linus Torvalds.”

    Kudos Linus Torvalds!
    daikon
  • In a related post, a most esteemed UK judge threw out a similar lawsuit

    stating that Android is simply not as cool as Windows.
    kenosha77a
    • Nothing similar

      The other case was on look and feel, this was actualy based on how they work.
      wright_is
    • You mean Apple

      The judge decided Android wasn't as cool as Apple products. The relative cool factor of Android vs Apple has yet to be tested in a court of law. Neither has the coolness of Apple vs Microsoft products.
      DJL64
      • wright_is & DJL64

        kenosha77a's post is what we call a joke.
        non-biased
  • The FAT32 Patent

    According to this Wired article, the FAT32 patent in question involved adpating long filenames to FAT32's 8.3 filename restrictions. And the reason the patent was ruled invalid is because Linus Torvalds had described the method that Microsoft patented 3 years before Microsoft was granted the patent.

    http://www.wired.com/wiredenterprise/2012/03/ms-patent/

    Which, once again, goes to show that the patent office is far to eager to grant patents to techniques that are trivially obvious (in any case, it was trivial enough to Torvalds that he didn't feel the need to secure a patent to cover hisw idea).
    dsf3g
    • Re Torvalds

      It was not thrown out because what Torvalds described was "trivially obvious". It was thrown out because to be patentable in the US it must be "NEW, useful and not obvious to a person with ordinary skill in the art". Because Torvalds had DESCRIBED it it was not new.

      The same applied to NASA's astronaut mobility backpacks. When NASA applied for a patent it was denied because the idea of compressed air, etc., had been described in the Buck Rogers comic strip in the 1920's.
      Rick_R
    • 3 years before the patent was granted

      But was it before MS filed for the patent?
      non-biased
  • don't use sd slots

    That may be the prime reason Google's own devices never have SD card slots then they don't need to include the FAT filesystem. .

    The patented part was added later only to support long filenames and is just a simple hack (I've implemented a fat filesystem). The filesystem design itself is not patented and is
    ancient and horribly outdated anyway. I can't believe they can still get away with blocking the competition with this. The overall design goes back to 1980.

    Android itself uses ext4, a modern robust filesystem and no one would even use FAT except for legacy reasons.
    deathjazz68
    • Never used SD slots?

      Then what is this SD slot thingy next to the SIM slot in my Nexus One?
      rhonin
      • never used a one

        Maybe they did back then but stopped. The nexus 7 and galaxy nexus do not, anyway. I'm only familliar with those two.
        deathjazz68
      • SDSlots

        All Nexus past v1 had no SD slots. Seriously. GTMF.
        ben@...
    • MTP and ...

      It's also why Android 4.0 fully implements MTP and does not need to use the mass storage device, so there is no reason to utilize FAT except external flash memory which uses FAT.

      Another thing, there is a compiler switch to compile out this long to short file name mapping support. Who needs the short names?

      Since Microsoft came to an agreement with flash memory makers for a royalty rate of 1¢ per device, I don't see how damages could be higher than that. (IIRC and IMHO)
      BorgX
    • MTP and ...

      It's also why Android 4.0 fully implements MTP and does not need to use the mass storage device, so there is no reason to utilize FAT except external flash memory which uses FAT.

      Another thing, there is a compiler switch to compile out this long to short file name mapping support. Who needs the short names?

      Since Microsoft came to an agreement with flash memory makers for a royalty rate of 1¢ per device, I don't see how damages could be higher than that. (IIRC and IMHO)
      BorgX
  • Motorola Android devices banned in Germany in Microsoft FAT spat

    Sweet justice brought to you by Microsoft!
    Loverock Davidson-
    • Only justice because it's MS right?

      We all know that if you replaced MS with Apple in this case you would be saying the ban was wrong.
      non-biased
  • Sigh...

    This is getting ridiculous. You almost need a score-card to keep up.
    Hallowed are the Ori
  • Poster Child for Why Software Patents Are Bad

    The filename extension patents for FAT are a perfect example of why software patents are a bad idea in the first place. If we disregard the prior art for a moment (i.e., Torvalds' description of the method before it was patented), you could argue that the patent is a legitimate one (it's debatable, but it could be). The problem with it is that it doesn't do anything that's so difficult. The only reason it would be worthwhile is for compatibility's sake.

    There were alternate methods of creating long filenames for the FAT file system. The only reason this particular one was ever particularly desirable was because it was already built into Windows. A company could use another method, but then their device would need to install a driver in Windows for the filesystem to be properly recognized with long filename support. Without a previously existing operating system monopoly, the patent becomes absolutely worthless.

    Also, if the patent had been enforced from the beginning, the technology would probably never have gained any traction in the first place (again because it wasn't the only way to do what it does).

    Another patent that illustrates this is the LZW patent (now expired). The LZW compression patent was only ever worth anything after it was allowed to be used free of charge for years and a whole Internet full of GIF images using LZW compression came into being. Again, that never would have happened if the patent had been enforced from the beginning. There were always alternate ways of compressing images, and a specifically targeted new format was developed in very short order once the LZW patent started to be enforced. The patent had to be employed in submarine style in order to produce any profit or be worth anything.

    That is part of the overall picture of software patents. Generally, the patents for which legitimacy can best be argued are easily worked around. So if the software patent process were somehow refined so that only legitimate patents came into existence, it seems very unlikely that even those patents would be worth anything unless used as submarine patents.

    I have yet to see a software patent that is both legitimate and valuable on its own (without using submarine tactics to create a market for the patented technology).
    CFWhitman
    • The last sentence says it all

      CFWhitman, I agree with all of what you said, and the last sentence sums it up very well. Software patents are an idea whose time should NEVER have come, and the MS FAT patent is a prime case in point.
      bowenw@...
  • getting desparate

    as they've got to figure out how to pay for the $6 billion aQuantive writeoff and potential $7 billion EU fines somehow, in the face of a slowly sinking company with a bleak future.
    deathjazz68