Microsoft and Motorola Mobility have a lot at stake as they argue over Google Android before the International Trade Commission.
intellectual-property war between Microsoft and Motorola Mobility is reaching a
crucial phase, with the International Trade Commission's Aug. 22 hearing into
whether the handset maker's Google Android devices violate Microsoft
holds that Android broadly violates its intellectual-property rights, and has
aggressively pursued litigation against companies that use Android as the
operating system for their mobile hardware. Part of Microsoft's Android
strategy also involves corralling as many of those manufacturers as possible
into licensing agreements.
hearing comes at a particularly auspicious time. Google recently announced its
decision to acquire Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. In addition to
acquiring a hardware arm, Google also inherits a broad array of wireless
technology patents that could provide useful cover against its rivals' legal
assault on Android. Whether that holds true in practice remains to be seen.
one of the world's most innovative companies, and we have a responsibility to
our employees, customers, partners and shareholders to safeguard our
intellectual property," David Howard, Microsoft's corporate vice president and
deputy general counsel for litigation, wrote in a statement. "Motorola is
infringing on our patents, and we are confident that the ITC will rule in our
Microsoft's language deployed in similar Android disputes.
Mobility, meanwhile, has retaliated with a host of lawsuits accusing Microsoft
of intellectual-property violations. "We have also brought legal actions of our
own in the U.S. and in Europe to address Microsoft's large scale of
infringement of Motorola Mobility's patents," Jennifer Erickson, a Motorola
Mobility spokesperson, wrote in an Aug. 22 statement emailed to Bloomberg.
intent to acquire Motorola Mobility may not help its case. Indeed, Microsoft
has asked the ITC to exercise its ability to stop the handset maker's imports
into the United States. Should that come to pass, it could prove especially
awkward for the search-engine giant.
scrutiny delays the closing of the acquisition, Google could end up buying a
company that is formally enjoined from importing Android-based devices into the
United States," Florian Mueller, an intellectual property analyst, wrote in an Aug. 15
posting on his blog. "In that kind of scenario, Google might come
under pressure from its own shareholders to consider paying the huge $2.5
billion breakup fee."
A few days
tweeted: "No one who claims [Motorola Mobility] is patent protection
has any plausible explanation for why [Microsoft] and Apple attacked [Motorola
Mobility] out of 39 Android device makers."
analysts feel that Google's acquisition could provide Motorola Mobility-and
other Android makers-with something resembling legal air cover.
Motorola Mobility, and becoming a hardware manufacturer itself, Google is
putting itself in the sights of those filing lawsuits," Allen Nogee, research
director for In-Stat, wrote in an Aug. 15 research note, "which will not only
allow it to defend against those lawsuits directly, but will also likely reduce
the number of lawsuits over time, since rivals may be less inclined to sue
well-financed Google than some of its hardware partners."
The ITC case
is titled "In the Matter of Certain Mobile Devices, Associated Software
and Components Thereof, 337-744, U.S. International Trade Commission
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.