Saturday, May 19, 2012

ITC affirms import ban of some Motorola Android devices over Microsoft patent

Apple isn't the only company pursuing patent infringement cases against Android OEMs. Microsoft is too, and on Friday, the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) ordered an import ban against all Android-based Motorola Mobility devices that infringe a specific Microsoft patent, U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566 on "generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device."

The decision affirmed an initial determination made by Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) Theodore Essex in December of 2011.

The ITC's order has been sent to U.S. President Barack Obama, who has 60 days to review it, and consider whether or not to overturn it for policy reasons. Google attempted to claim that the public interest outweighed against an exclusion order, but the ITC dismissed that claim.

In an emailed statement, Motorola Mobility said, "Although we are disappointed by the commission's ruling that certain Motorola Mobility products violated one patent, we look forward to reading the full opinion to understand its reasoning. We will explore all options including appeal."

Microsoft, on the other hand, was pleased by the decision. "We hope that now Motorola will be willing to join the vast majority of Android device makers selling phones in the US by taking a license to our patents," the company said via email.

The ITC order did not say which models of Android devices were affected by the order. However, Microsoft has requested that the following devices be stopped at the border: the Atrix, Backflip, Bravo, Charm, Cliq, Cliq 2, Cliq XT, Defy, Devour, Droid 2, Droid 2 Global, Droid Pro, Droid X, Droid X2, Flipout, Flipside, Spice and the Xoom tablet.

The quickest way to remedy the issue is for Motorola Mobility to modify its products by removing the related feature. That is how HTC reacted to an exclusion order Apple won last year based on one of its patents, but even with that the launch of the Sprint HTC EVO 4G LTE was delayed, and supplies of AT&T HTC One X were impacted.

To be honest, though, none of the devices Microsoft has asked about are among the most recent and hot Motorola devices. Halting importation of the Droid 4, RAZR and RAZR Maxx among smartphones, and the XyBoard 10.1 and 8.2 among tablets, would be more harmful to Motorola Mobility's business.

Even given that, it is probably only a matter of time before Motorola Mobility signs on to licenses for Microsoft's many Android-related patents. Other Android OEMs, such as Samsung, HTC, and LG have already done so.

Microsoft says that over 70 percent of all Android smartphones sold in the U.S. now have a license to its patent portfolio. Of the major Android device OEMs, Motorola Mobility is currently the only one to still be involved in litigation with Microsoft.

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