Friday, July 20, 2012

Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility appeals U.S. Android import ban won by Microsoft

Motorola Mobility, now a wholly-owned Google subsidiary, yesterday appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit an ITC import ban that was ordered in May and took effect this week, effectively requiring the removal of a meeting scheduler feature.

Quite apparently, Google isn't comfortable with this outcome: a company for which it just paid $12.5 billion is not allowed to import devices into the United States that provide the full range of Android's functionality. Unlike Motorola's gadgets, more than 70% of all Android devices sold in the United States have a royalty-bearing patent license from Microsoft. Those device makers who have a license are still able to provide the meeting scheduler feature to their customers. (The existing import ban wouldn't apply to third parties anyway, but it would be easy to extend it to third parties through new complaints.)

Here's a passage of Google's filing (click on the image to enlarge):

More than a month ago, Microsoft already filed its own appeal against the ITC decision, asking for a reversal of unfavorable parts relating to other patents in a quest for an import ban of even broader technical scope. It's possible that the Federal Circuit will now consolidate the two appeals into one. I believe Motorola Mobility will request this in an effort to slow down Microsoft's appeal. Microsoft has a handful of patents in play that the ITC did not consider to be both valid and infringed by Android, so in statistical terms, the likelihood of the import ban being broadened by the Federal Circuit is substantially greater than that of the import ban being lifted.

Another ITC decision involving Motorola Mobility that was recently appealed to the Federal Circuit is the dismissal of Apple's three-patent complaint.

The Federal Circuit plays an increasingly important role in the current wave of smartphone patent disputes. Yesterday it decided, for the second time this month, not to stay a preliminary injunction that a district court ordered against the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

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