ITC Hands Microsoft a Mobile Patent Victory, Too

Hot on the heels of a ruling that provided Apple with a small win against a mobile industry competitor, the International Trade Commission (ITC) this week issued a similarly minor victory to Microsoft. The ITC ruled that Motorola Mobility has violated six of Microsoft's patents, while ruling that the handset maker did not violate six others.

Naturally, both sides are claiming victory.

"As Samsung, HTC, Acer, and other companies have recognized, respecting others' intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward," said Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard, alluding to the fact that other licensees of the Android mobile OS were wise to settle with the software giant when presented with its patent claims. By not settling, Motorola must now change its Android smartphones in such a way that won't violate Microsoft's patents.

"We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favorable to Motorola Mobility," said Scott Offer, a Motorola senior VP who's apparently not listing math as a strong point on his resume. "The initial determination may provide clarity on the definition of the Microsoft patent for which a violation was found and will help us avoid infringement of this patent in the US market."

The violated patents involve a way to send meeting-scheduling requests by email, a common activity on smartphones. This is part of Microsoft's ActiveSync technology, which is broadly licensed throughout the mobile industry; even Apple and Google have licensed this technology.

Now that the ITC has ruled against Motorola, an internal panel will review the ruling and will likely issue an order banning the sale of infringing Motorola handsets in the United States. Some of the phones affected by this ruling include the Motorola Atrix, Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip, Charm, and Cliq, as well as Android-based tablets like the Xoom. But as with the recent Apple ruling, Motorola would likely be given several months to conform and could use that time to make changes in its device software or settle with Microsoft.

And a settlement is exactly what Microsoft is hoping for: As the software giant routinely points out, over half of all Android phones sold today come to market with some form of Microsoft licensing fee. And with Google now claiming more than 700,000 Android device activations per day, that's a pretty serious business for the software giant. In fact, Microsoft makes more revenues from Android directly than does Google, which gives the software away.

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