A German court has halted an attempt by Motorola to have Microsoft's push email services for Exchange and Hotmail banned over patent infringement.
The patent in question is the same one that Motorola asserted against Apple in Germany, a move that successfully saw the push email functionality of iCloud and MobileMe banned in that country.
However, on Friday judge Andreas Voss suspended Motorola's ability to enforce the patent against Microsoft, as the software firm argued it had been implementing the technology before Motorola's patent was granted.
"We are pleased the Mannheim court is looking even more closely at this case and remain confident in our arguments," a Microsoft spokesperson said on Friday. Another spokesperson also told ZDNet UK that Microsoft had "a simple technology fix" prepared to work around any patent enforcement.
According to patent expert Florian Mueller, who has been sitting in on the hearings, Voss said he was reopening the case launched by Motorola last year, and a new trial is likely.
Motorola filed its European patent covering a 'multiple pager status synchronisation system and method' in 1996, and it was granted two years later. However, Microsoft claims to have been issuing beta versions of software using the same technique back in 1995.
Although it also constitutes part of a wide legal battle between the two companies, the push email case is not directly related to the video-compression patent case that saw Microsoft's Windows 7 and Xbox 360 products theoretically banned in Germany at the start of this month.
The court is well aware it is being used as a pawn in a global, industry-wide business negotiation.– Judge James Robart
That ruling, which Motorola is currently unable to enforce due to a restraining order granted by a US court, has to do with standard-essential technology that is covered by fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) licensing terms. The push email patent is not FRAND-protected.
The temporary restraining order was granted because the US courts are still — like the European Commission — trying to work out if Motorola is abusing its FRAND obligations by using standards-essential patents as legal weapons.
On Monday, the Seattle district judge who granted Microsoft the order chided both companies for using the courts in "an attempt to secure commercial advantage".
"The court is well aware it is being used as a pawn in a global, industry-wide business negotiation," James Robart said in court, according to The Seattle Times. "To an outsider looking at it, [Microsoft and Motorola's conduct] has been arbitrary, it has been arrogant and, frankly, it has been based on hubris."