Cellphone patent disputes on the rise

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A Motorola Droid phone is seen displaying the Google search page in New York August 15, 2011. Google Inc. will buy phone hardware maker Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. for $12.5 billion to bolster adoption of its Android mobile software and compete with smartphone rival Apple Inc. In its biggest deal to date, Google said it would pay $40 per share in cash, a 63 percent premium to Motorola Mobility's Friday closing price on the New York Stock Exchange. Photo- Brendan McDermid/Reuters

According to reports, this week extra legal and financial exercises related to the mobile device exclusive rights issue, was found to be alarming the possible obscures, which were linked with Google Inc., Hewlett-Packard Co. and other market giants plans.

However, the reports further claimed that on Monday, the International Trade Commission also declared that the Microsoft Corp.’s patent-infringement charges against Motorola Inc would again be reviewed by the investigation bureau officials.

Microsoft vs. Motorola

One of the many battles in the smartphone patent war went before the International Trade Commission (ITC) yesterday as Microsoft began arguing its case that Android-based smartphones made by Motorola Mobility infringed on seven of Microsoft’s patents.

In a trial that began yesterday before the ITC in Washington, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of using technology derived from Microsoft inventions and requested a haltto imports of certain Motorola phones,Bloomberg reported. The ITC has the power to stop imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.

It’s one of several lawsuits Microsoft and Motorola have filed against each other. And it’s the first to be heard since Google, which created the Android operating system, announced Aug. 15 that it plans to buy Motorola Mobility,at least in part because of Motorola’s stash of mobile-phone technology patents.

In October 2010, Microsoft filed suit in the U.S. District Court of Western Washington and complained to the International Trade Commission, saying Motorola’s Droid phones, which use the Android platform, infringe on nine of Microsoft’s patents. (Microsoft dropped its claim on two of those nine patents for its ITC case. It’s still pushing forward on all nine in the federal court case.)

In November, Motorola countersued Microsoft in federal courts in California and Florida, saying Windows 7, Windows Vista, Windows Phone 7, Hotmail and Exchange Server software infringe on its patents.

Separately, Google lost a patent bidding war for thousands of patents from computer-networking-software maker Novell, and Nortel, a telecom gear maker. Google lost to a consortium that included Microsoft, Apple and Research In Motion.

Earlier this month, Google’s chief legal officer, ina sharply worded blog item, accused Microsoft and others in the consortium of engaging in anti-competitive practices against Android. Microsoft’s chief spokesman fired back, saying Google had been asked to be part of the consortium to bid on the Novell patents but had turned the offer down.

Meanwhile, action also has been brewing in a closely watched Acacia Research Corps case, which was filed in federal court in Tyler, Texas. The patent holding company Acacia Research Corp. has accused an array of smartphone makers, including Apple, of patent infringement.

Several defendants, including Motorola, Nokia Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd. have recently agreed to settle the charges.

Paul Ryan, Acacia’s chief executive, declined to comment on those talks. But he did discuss patents that figure in the litigation- some of which could have a bearing on developments in the wake of HP’s surprise announcements last week.

Moreover, Leo Apotheker, HP’s Chief Executive, during an interview, asserted: “It had great reception in the market; people like it, people think its great and we’re looking at alternatives to drive webOS software forward.

In the meantime, David Drummond, Google’s Senior Vice-President and Chief Legal Officer, in a blog post, wrote, “We’re determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it.

‘Motorola sales could be hit’

Florian Mueller, a consultant who writes theFoss Patentsblog and has been following this and other related cases closely, believes that “Microsoft is in a pretty strong position here. There’s no doubt that Microsoft innovated in various areas in the last 10 to 20 years in fields of technology in which Android also sort of operates.”

Google’s deal to buy Motorola has not yet been finalized and may not be for more than a year. Assuming the merger closes, Google will be in charge and it will want to make sure that any settlement benefits Google, Mueller said.

While Google, for now, cannot use Motorola in its legal battles before its deal is finalized, it still probably would not want Motorola to settle with Microsoft while the merger is still going ahead, Mueller believes.

What’s at stake is market share in a fast-moving, highly competitive market. If the ITC imposes an import ban, it’s unlikely that Motorola would move most of its manufacturing to the U.S., meaning Motorola would take a huge hit in U.S.sales. “It’s all the leverage you need to negotiate a settlement,” Mueller says.

Motorola is one of several companies that make Android phones and tablets that Microsoft has gone after in recent months, saying Microsoft has patents on some of the technologies found in certain Android features.

The patent war is on

The recent Nortel sale played out well, with an Apple led consortium buying the 6,000+ patents for $4.5 billion. It was quickly dubbed the biggest patent sale in history but it was just the first battle in the major patent war which is now raging across industries and continents. This week Google made a big move by buying Motorola Mobility and its 17,000+ patents for $12.5m and is now a major patent holder in the mobile and networking space. And theres plenty more to come.

It is expected that Apple will retaliate with a major purchase within the next month or two, with InterDigital, Eastman Kodak and maybe the newly available Palm patents as potential targets. There could also be news from Samsung soon as the legal battles with Apple intensify. If Apple is able to block sales of Samsungs mobile devices inEuropeand elsewhere Samsung will have no choice but to load up with essential patents so that they can broker cross-licensing deals with Apple – or face irrelevance.

Sources: Newstonight, WSJ, Seattletimes, Seekingalpha

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