Tuesday, December 20, 2011

ITC judge finds Motorola in infringement of a Microsoft patent

AllThingsD's Ina Fried just reported that "Microsoft won an interim victory in its patent dispute with Motorola as the International Trade Commission issued an initial ruling that certain Motorola products infringe on one of the software maker's patents."

[Update] There's also a notice on the ITC website. [/Update]

Today was the target date for an initial determination by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) on Microsoft's first complaint (of many) against Motorola. This patent dispute started on October 1 and is now keeping multiple courts in the United States and Germany busy with more than 50 different patents-in-suit.

Yesterday Apple won a final ruling on its first complaint against HTC. As Bloomberg accurately notes, the problem Google is facing is that Android patent rulings keep coming in. Many more cases are underway. Considering that Microsoft has about 30 patents in action against Motorola, this ITC case is just a starting point -- which is what I also said yesterday about Apple's first ITC case against HTC.

Also, this is an initial determination (unlike yesterday's final decision on Apple's complaint), so the final ruling could be a different one in a few months.

This is the patent the ALJ found to be infringed: U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566 on "generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device". I have uploaded to Scribd the related infringement claim chart Microsoft presented to the ITC in October 2010 along with its original complaint.

The initial finding is that four patent claims (1, 2, 5 and 6) are infringed. Apple's decision yesterday was based on two patent claims.

It's a fairly interesting patent. The way I understand it (based on the patent document and the claim chart), it enables users to schedule meeting requests from mobile devices. For business users, that's an essential feature. If they're on travel or even just at lunch or in a meeting room, they want to be able to schedule meetings without having to go back to their office. Scheduling meetings is also increasingly popular on some social networks, so it's probably a feature for both enterprise users and consumers. It remains to be seen how Motorola will address this issue as well as any other Android patent issues that will present themselves along the way, with many other cases and dozens of other patents still waiting for a decision.

For Apple, Microsoft and everyone else embroiled in the smartphone patent lawsuits, this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint. The ones who can actually sit back and relax as they watch this are those who have concluded license deals with Microsoft (or other patent holders) and don't have to worry about possible or actual import bans, possible or impossible workarounds, or further escalation.

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