Microsoft Targeted by Motorola ITC Complaint

Microsoft finds itself the target of a Motorola subsidiary's complaint filed with the International Trade Commission over Xbox-related patents.

Microsoft again finds itself in Motorola's legal cross-hairs, with the manufacturer filing a patent-infringement complaint against the Xbox franchise with the International Trade Commission.

Motorola Mobility, the manufacturer's subsidiary, is requesting "that the Commission conduct an investigation under section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930, as amended regarding Certain Gaming and Entertainment Consoles, Related Software, and Components Thereof," according to a Nov. 22 note posted on the ITC's Website. The respondent is "Microsoft Corporation," which manufactures the Xbox.

Section 337 seeks to address unfair import competition, and the ITC can use it to ban the importation of goods that violate U.S. patents. Certain tech companies have found themselves the target of ITC investigations for allegedly running afoul of the law, often in response to rivals' complaints about patent infringement. Those companies' tradition of manufacturing their products in other countries, and then shipping them to the U.S., makes them vulnerable to such investigations.

Motorola and Microsoft have spent the fall locked in an escalating series of legal battles, which entered a new stage Nov. 10 when Motorola Mobility filed patent-infringement complaints against the software giant with the U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of Florida and the Western District of Wisconsin.

Motorola accused Microsoft's PC and Server software, Windows Phone software and Xbox products of violating some 16 patents. That action seemed a response to Microsoft's Nov. 9 lawsuit, which alleged that Motorola had violated agreements to license at "reasonable rates" patents related to H.264 video compression and wireless LAN.

In that lawsuit, Microsoft argued that Motorola had made those commitments to both the IEEE-SA (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association) and ITU (International Telecommunications Union). Microsoft claimed that Motorola wants its patent royalties adjusted to the price of end products such as the Xbox, as opposed to the component software, which it argues is a condition to arduous to let stand.

Meanwhile, Motorola has positioned its complaints against Microsoft has straight-up patent infringement. "Motorola's R&D and intellectual property are of great importance to the Company and are renowned worldwide," Kirk Dailey, corporate vice president of intellectual property at Motorola Mobility, wrote in a Nov. 10 statement posted on Motorola's corporate Website. "We are committed to protecting the interests of our shareholders, customers and other stakeholders and are bringing this action against Microsoft in order to halt its infringement of key Motorola patents."

Nor are Motorola and Microsoft the only two gladiators battling in this particular arena at the moment. Apple has also filed a claim against Motorola and its Mobility subsidiary with the ITC, asking for a ban on the manufacturers' phone imports into the U.S. That marks yet another patent-related battle for Cupertino, which is also crossing swords with HTC and Nokia over the rights to certain mobile technology.