Microsoft said today that it has filed suit against Motorola for patent infringement related to Motorola's Android smartphones. Microsoft filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Washington and also filed a complaint to the International Trade Commission.
Details of the exact patents listed in the complaints weren't immediately unavailable but, in a statement, Horatio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing for Microsoft, said:
The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola’s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power. We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market. Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones.
The complaints are not the first targeted at the makers of Google's Android mobile operating system. In March, Apple sued HTC for infringing on 20 patents related to the iPhone "user interface, underlying architecture and hardware."
However, with Apple going after HTC and Microsoft now going after Motorola - and both filing formal complaints with the ITC - it's clear that there's a bigger target out there: Google.
In a blog post that elaborated on his official statement, Microsoft's Gutierrez said:
Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices; and judging by the recent actions by Apple and Oracle, we are not alone in this respect.
In August, Oracle filed a patent infringement suit against Google, alleging that the company developed Android and "directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle's Java-related intellectual property.
While the Apple-HTC suit and now Microsoft-Motorola suits both sound they have beefs with Android, neither have gone directly after Google, choosing instead to take the device makers to court.
In April, Microsoft and HTC reached an agreement on a licensing payment for HTC's use of patented technology being used in phones running Android.
Interestingly enough, the suits are piling up on the heels of reports about Android's growth momentum. Last month, ComScore said that Android was the only smartphone platform to see a market share gain in July, a five percent jump from April.
At the same time, Windows Phone 7 - the platform for Microsoft's next wave of smartphones - could be released as early as this month.
In an increasingly crowded category that appears to be a two-company race - Google vs. Apple - and with market leader RIM working hard to hang on to its lead and relevance, there's been little mention of Microsoft as a contender in a category that it's re-entering well behind the others.