Microsoft wants 'patent peace' in ongoing Motorola spat

Microsoft's lawyers pen a public note to Motorola: 'We want to talk because this patent nonsense is getting way out of hand.' Will the two companies kiss and make up, or squabble until a court rules?
Written by Zack Whittaker, Contributor

Microsoft and Motorola continue to butt heads over patents and the licensing of each others' technologies.


The two companies are not friends, but Microsoft wants to be, months after Google acquired the handset maker -- as well as its patent troubles. 

The Microsoft-weighted v. Motorola spats continue to roll on with no end in sight, but Microsoft wants "patent peace" between the two companies.

In a blog post by Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez, the two top lawyers said Google "mounted a public relations and lobbying campaign deflecting attention from its refusal to honor its promise to standards bodies to license standards-essential patents on [fair and reasonable] terms," which led to authorities on both sides of the Atlantic in the U.S and the EU to investigate. The lawyers said they "expect[ed] more" in the future.

So far we have: 

Across the U.S., more than a dozen Android-powered Motorola devices are banned from being imported to the U.S. for sale because Motorola was found to have infringed Microsoft's ActiveSync patent, thanks to a ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).

More recently, a German court banned the sale of all Motorola devices running Android because the smartphone maker infringed a Microsoft-owned patent relating to file storage.

However, Microsoft didn't come away from the scrap unwounded.

Motorola secured an injunction against Windows 7 and the Xbox in Germany over H.264 video codecs, though the sales ban will not be enforced immediately. Microsoft said it wanted to use the video compression technology, but Motorola would charge in the region of $4 billion in annual royalties -- which Microsoft said was not at the market rate.

EU authorities are investigating to see whether its handling of patents breaks antitrust law or not.

In order to come to an agreement, a "lasting solution of these disputes will not be reached by leaking settlement positions through the press," adding: "Patent peace will be found through good faith engagement."

Microsoft just wants everyone to all get along. 

Microsoft has always been, and remains open to, a settlement of our patent litigation with Motorola. As we have said before, we are seeking solely the same level of reasonable compensation for our patented intellectual property that numerous other Android distributors -- both large and small -- have already agreed to recognize in our negotiations with them. And we stand ready to pay reasonable compensation for Motorola's patented intellectual property as well.

Both Smith and Hutierrez went on to detail the two principles to so-called "patent peace," that continues to churn up both companies' time, money and energy. In true dual-esque style, Microsoft noted Motorola's bid to sidestep the ITC's ruling by "cherry picking" Microsoft's propriety technology would only be for "selectively disarming an opponent" rather than seeking a mutual agreement.

The second issue relates to market rates over H.264 video codecs, one of the most popular codecs available. "These and other well-established market rates, along with appropriate safeguards to ensure Google lives up to its FRAND commitments in the future," the blog post read. Microsoft just wants a fair price to buy a license to the patents so it can move on and carry on.

But the lawyers warned Google that litigation now "stands at a crossroads."

With its phones and tablets now subject to injunctions in the U.S. and Germany, Google can no longer doubt the relevance of Microsoft's patent portfolio to Motorola's products. Google can take one of two paths: it can choose either to engage in serious discussions to search for patent peace or persevere in its diversionary tactics. We hope it will choose the first course, and we stand ready to engage in good faith if it does.

A Motorola spokesperson told ZDNet in an emailed statement:

Microsoft wants to undercut Motorola's industry-leading patent portfolio, licensed by more than 50 other companies on fair and reasonable terms, while seeking inflated royalties tied to standards that Microsoft alone controls. Motorola is always open to negotiations that avoid wasteful and abusive patent claims.

Microsoft is serious about kissing and making up, but it's not going to lie down for Motorola -- despite its acquisition bringing the patent fight directly to Google.

All eyes are on Microsoft v. Motorola. Whether or not the two companies will resolve their differences or not remains to be seen. But Microsoft has made it clear: it wants to go back to work and continue building, and doesn't want to carry on needlessly bickering.

Your move, Motorola. Choose wisely.

Editorial standards