Microsoft has filed a formal complaint against Motorola Mobility and Google, arguing the latter broke a promise related to standard-essential patents.
Microsoft has filed a formal complaint with the European
Commission against Motorola Mobility and Google, arguing that the latter broke
an earlier promise to make patents available on fair terms.
The European Commission acts as an antitrust watchdog for
the European Union, and has previously demonstrated the willingness for taking
companies to task over products or features. Googles recent acquisition of
Motorola Mobility draws it into a legal battle that extends back to late 2010,
when Microsoft and Motorola first started firing patent-infringement lawsuits
at each other.
We have taken this step because Motorola is attempting to
block sales of Windows PCs, out Xbox game console and other products, Dave
Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel of Microsofts Corporate
Standards & Antitrust Group, wrote in a Feb. 22 posting on the Microsoft
on the Issues
blog. Their offense? These products enable people to view
videos on the Web and to connect wirelessly to the Internet using industry
In Microsofts telling, Motorola and other companies agreed
to common technical standards for video and WiFi, the better for building
compatible products. In exchange, patents governing those standards would be
made available to participants on fair and reasonable terms.
Now, Heiner added, Motorola is demanding that Microsoft
take its products off the market, or else remove their standards-based ability
to play video and connect wirelessly. Moreover, the manufacturer is apparently
demanding a hefty royalty for its patents.
For several quarters, Microsoft and Google (along with their
proxies) have continued to battle each other on a number of fronts. Along the
way, Microsoft has racked up some significant victories in the patent realm: a
sizable number of large and small manufacturers now pay Redmond royalties for
each Android device manufactured. According to Heiner, though, theres a wide
gulf between Microsofts Android-related legal forays, and Motorolas maneuvers
with standards-related patents.
There are big differences between Googles approach and
Microsofts, he wrote. Microsoft is not seeking to block Android
manufacturers from shopping products on the basis of standard essential
patents. Rather, Microsoft is focused on infringement of patents that it has
not contributed to any industry standard.
Meanwhile, a Google spokesperson offered eWEEK
an emailed comment about the matter: "We haven't seen Microsoft's complaint, but it's consistent with the way they use the regulatory process to attack competitors. It's particularly ironic, given their track record in this area and collaboration with patent trolls."
However the situation resolves, using standard-essential
patents as competitive leverage can have far-reaching consequences, according
to one analyst. They cant be worked around once they are part of an industry
standard, patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in a Feb. 22 posting on his FOSS
blog. Its key that the owners of such patents act responsibly,
and if some of them dont, antitrust intervention is needed.
Google is already in line to potentially receive a Statement
of Objections from the European Commission over its search and online
advertising, he added. Google should think hard about whether it wants to get
another 100- or 150-page Statement of Objections at some point relating to
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