Microsoft files antitrust patent complaint in EU against Motorola

In the latest round in the never-ending patent wars, Microsoft has filed an antitrust complaint in the EU over Motorola Mobility's video-patent-licensing terms.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

On the heels of Apple filing an antitrust patent complaint against Mototrola Mobility, Microsoft has done the same in the European Union.

On February 22, Microsoft officials said they'd filed a formal complaint over Motorola Mobility's -- and parent Google's -- policies around making standard, essential patents available on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms. Microsoft specifically is targeting the amount Motorola Mobility's is seeking Microsoft to pay for licensing video patents.

Here's the back story: In November 2011, Microsoft sued Motorola again over wireless and video coding patents that are used by the Xbox and smartphones. In the latter case, Microsoft claimed that Motorola is charging excessive royalties for its patents. Motorola retaliated with its own countersuit shortly thereafter, claiming infringement of 16 of its patents by Microsoft’s PC and server software, Windows Mobile and Xbox products.

From a blog post noting the EU antitrust filing from Microsoft's Vice President & Deputy General Counsel David Heiner:

"We have taken this step because Motorola is attempting to block sales of Windows PCs, our Xbox game console and other products. Their offense? These products enable people to view videos on the Web and to connect wirelessly to the Internet using industry standards."

Heiner said in the post that for a $1,000 laptop, Motorola is seeking Microsoft pay $22.50 in royalties for licensing 50 patents around the H.264 video standard. (Motorola is seeking significantly higher royalties for more expensive laptops, he said.) He contrasted that with the considerably lower royalties that Microsoft and other companies are charging for their own H.264 patents on FRAND terms.

Microsoft recently publicized its stance that it won't seek injunctions against other firms’ products on the basis of standard essential products.

Heiner also used the ocassion of the new antitrust suit filing to take another Android-patent-related swipe at Google, which recently obtained antitrust clearance to buy Motorola Mobility. From Heiner's post:

"Google says that it is just trying to protect manufacturers of Android devices against patent actions by Microsoft and others. But there are big differences between Google’s approach and Microsoft’s. Microsoft is not seeking to block Android manufacturers from shipping products on the basis of standard essential patents. Rather, Microsoft is focused on infringement of patents that it has not contributed to any industry standard. And Microsoft is making its patents—standard essential and otherwise—available to all Android manufacturers on fair and reasonable terms. In fact, more than 70 percent of Android devices are now licensed to use Microsoft’s patent portfolio."

Update: A Google spokesperson gave Geekwire the following statement about Microsoft's legal action today: "We haven’t seen Microsoft’s complaint, but it’s consistent with the way they use the regulatory process to attack competitors. It’s particularly ironic, given their track record in this area and collaboration with patent trolls.”

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