This week I got the impression that high tech companies -- especially if they're in the smartphone business -- now send each other patent suits instead of Christmas cards. Yesterday (23 December 2010) was particularly eventful, with heavyweights Microsoft and Motorola trading some additional patent infringement allegations.
Prior to this week, that dispute already involved 9 Microsoft patents, 17 Motorola patents, 3 US District Courts and complaints with the US International Trade Commission. Now we're talking about a total of 35 patents-in-suit (16 Microsoft patents and 19 Motorola patents). Motorola filed a new suit in the Western District of Wisconsin (where it previously filed two other ones) over 3 patents (one of which it previously asserted in another case, so the net gain is +2), and Microsoft made counterclaims in the Southern District of Florida, alleging the infringement of 7 of its patents.
Both companies have also expanded the range of products they accuse of infringing their patents. In its new suit, Motorola tries to attack the Kinect. In the aforementioned counterclaims, Microsoft asserts not only five patents against Android phones (just like it did before) but also two patents against Motorola set-top boxes with DVR functionality.
It's also worth noting that two of the seven patents added by Microsoft cover important touchscreen functionalities: US Patent No. 6,791,536 on "simulating gestures of a pointing device using a stylus and providing feedback thereto" and US Patent No. 6,897,853 on a "highlevel active pen matrix". While those patents were originally applied for in connection with "pointing devices" such as a stylus, they appear to cover user interface technologies that are nowadays most relevant in connection with touchscreens. Apple already asserts various touchscreen patents against Motorola (and other companies).
I could try to explain in detail how much this dispute has evolved in less than three months. But there's a better way to convey that information. I've put together a 13-page PDF document that shows you the current battlemap, then walks you through this in six steps, and finally there are 6 reference pages that list all of the patent numbers and titles and other detail concerning those suits, including, quite importantly, the accused products. You can look at it below (it's recommended to view it in full-screen mode) or on Scribd.com by clicking on the link:MicrosoftVsMotorola_10.12.23
I previously produced two other visualizations (using consistent colors for the various companies). On Scribd I have created a collection of files describing smartphone patent disputes, to which I will soon add some new ones, including a visualization of the epic battle between Nokia and Apple.
For now, I wish you all a Happy (and Peaceful) Holiday Season!
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