Microsoft Corp. (MSFT:US) won’t be able to seek another import ban against some handsets made by Google Inc. (GOOG:US)’s Motorola Mobility, though it can get damages under a ruling issued by a U.S. appeals court today.
A U.S. trade agency was wrong to say some of Motorola Mobility’s products didn’t infringe one Microsoft patent, while there was no violation of three others, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington said in an opinion posted on its website today. The remaining patent expires in December, so there won’t be enough time for a trade agency to block the devices from being imported into the U.S.
The ruling does give Microsoft ammunition to seek cash damages from Motorola Mobility in a U.S. district court. Both sides declared victory, with Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft saying it bolsters its efforts to get royalties from devices running on Google’s Android, the world’s most popular operating system. Motorola Mobility is one of the biggest holdouts of a program started three years ago, Microsoft has said.
“We’re pleased the court determined Google unfairly uses Microsoft technology and once again call on Google to join the rest of the Android ecosystem in licensing our patents,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said.
Motorola Mobility, which was bought by Mountain View, California-based Google after the case was filed in 2010, focused on the findings regarding the other three patents and the court finding that Motorola Mobility designed around the one that was infringed.
“Today’s favorable opinion confirms our position that our products don’t infringe the Microsoft patents,” said Matt Kallman, a Motorola Mobility spokesman.
The court didn’t rule on Google’s appeal of a separate patent in the dispute before the U.S. International Trade Commission. In that case, the ITC issued an import ban against some Motorola Mobility phones. Microsoft has sued U.S. Customs and Border Protection, claiming it hasn’t enforced the order.
Android had 79 percent of the global market in the second quarter, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Microsoft’s operating system was third with 3.6 percent, with Apple Inc. having 13.2 percent.
The patent claim that was revived against Motorola Mobility involves a digital interface that presents relevant choices when a user selects a computer resource, such as a picture file.
The Federal Circuit said the ITC erred in its interpretation of a key term in that patent. It sent the case back to determine the type of infringement by the main group of Motorola Mobility products and what, if any, the appropriate remedy would be. Other devices that designed around the patent were cleared of infringement by the appeals court.
The three-judge panel affirmed a finding that Motorola Mobility doesn’t infringe a patent for synchronizing data. That patent is similar to one involved in the infringement ruling that Mountain View, California-based Google is appealing, relating to syncing calendar items between mobile devices and computers. It involves Microsoft’s ActiveSync software.
The court also upheld the ITC’s determination that Microsoft hadn’t established that it was using the technology covered by the other two patents, a requirement that’s unique to the trade agency. The panel didn’t address the ITC’s finding those patents weren’t infringed.
A Motorola Mobility case against Microsoft, seeking to block imports of the Xbox video-gaming system, failed at the ITC and is on appeal.
In connection with that case, Microsoft has accused Motorola Mobility of demanding unreasonable fees on fundamental technology used in many electronics. Microsoft won a trial last week on its claims that Motorola Mobility breached obligations to license its standard-essential patents on fair terms.
The case that was ruled on is Microsoft Corp. v. ITC, 12-1445, while the pending case is Motorola Mobility LLC v. ITC, 12-1535, both U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit (Washington). The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Mobile Devices, Associated Software and Components Thereof, 337-744, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).
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