Monday, December 20, 2010

Overview of smartphone-related ITC investigations: who complains against whom over which products?

On Friday (17 December 2010), the US International Trade Commission announced the launch of an investigation "of certain gaming and entertainment consoles, related software, and components thereof" based on a complaint filed by Motorola against Microsoft four weeks earlier. I commented on that complaint at the time. All comparable complaints have also given rise to investigations, so this isn't a major milestone. Anything else would have been a big surprise.

The ITC usually takes about four weeks before launching an investigation, so this was the last smartphone-related ITC proceeding to start in 2010. More filings are still possible, however. For example, Nokia complained against Apple on 29 December 2009.

Actually, Motorola's complaint against Microsoft is only indirectly smartphone-related: it's just about the Xbox 360 gaming console, but it's part of a wider dispute between the two parties that started with Microsoft's complaints against Motorola on 01 October 2010 -- and those complaints related to Motorola's Android-based smartphones.

At this point I thought it would be useful to provide an overview of ongoing ITC investigations related to smartphone technologies:

Smartphone-Related ITC Overview 10.12.20

I focused on the ones in which both the complainant and the respondent are major players. Even between those big organizations, many more suits have been filed with US federal courts as well as -- more recently -- a few in Europe (between Apple and Nokia), but the ITC is particularly important because it generally decides more quickly than district courts. I previously wrote about its role as a patent enforcement agency.

If it isn't displayed above, you can also find the overview document on this Scribd page).

The accused products are important to consider. The chart shows that some companies have a large number of products under attack, some even by two or more right holders. By contrast, Microsoft only has to fend off a complaint involving the Xbox.

Concerning the colors I chose for the different companies, I explained my reasoning in this posting two weeks ago. At the time I published a visualization of Apple's disputes with Android-based device makers HTC and Motorola (all disputes, not only ITC investigations).

And now just imagine what it would mean for the US market if all of the accused products were banned by the ITC. It's unbelievable, but not impossible.

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