Site   Web

December 4, 2012

Judge Rules Against Sales Ban of Microsoft Products

Motorola was the initial loser in last week’s patent infringement case against Microsoft.

Judge James L. Robart denied Motorola’s request for a sales ban of Microsoft products, such as the Xbox, that the firm claimed breached its patents, ComputerWorld reported Dec. 3.

“Because Motorola cannot show irreparable harm or that monetary damages would be inadequate, the court agrees with Microsoft that injunctive relief is improper in this matter,” Robart wrote in his ruling late last week.

The two companies are in conflict over how much Microsoft should pay Google-owned Motorola for the use of its patents. The trial could set a precedent in how to price patents that are part of industry standards.

The patents at issue are standards-essential patents that cover inventions that are part of industry standards. Such patents are to be licensed under fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.

Microsoft said it sought to license the patents associated with H.264 video and the 802.11 Wi-Fi standard in 2010, adding it would have to shell out up to $4 billion a year to use video streaming and Wi-Fi technology in its Windows and Xbox products if Motorola has its way.

The software giant has said it is prepared to pay a royalty, but added the 2.25 percent of the product price Motorola wants is not only unfair, but violates its promise to license the patents fairly. Microsoft has suggested a $1 million fee.

Robart’s Nov. 29 ruling does not conclude the matter, however. The judge must still determine a fair royalty rate which will be binding for both Microsoft and Motorola. The judge is not expected to deliver his final decision until next spring.

This trial is not the first time Motorola has been accused of leveraging unfair patent fees.

The Federal Trade Commission is currently investigating Google’s handling of patents it attained in its $12.5-billion deal to purchase Motorola Mobility in May, sources told the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

It is alleged Google declined its mobile device rivals’ patent licenses and obtained court injunctions against them to keep their products from being sold.

FTC lawyers have threatened to charge the company under Section 5 of the FTC Act  —which prohibits unfair or deceptive business practices —for using Motorola’s patents as ammunition against rivals such as Apple and Microsoft, the source told WSJ.

Microsoft and Motorola have filed several patent violation lawsuits against each other in the U.S. and Germany.

In October, Motorola won its app patent case against Microsoft. A German court ruled Motorola did not breach Microsoft’s patent that makes apps work on various handsets, meaning a developer is not required to produce independent codes and apps for different Smartphones.

Microsoft Corp. vs. Motorola Inc., 10-cv-1823 can be read here.