Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Published: UK ruling holding Google's push email patent invalid as well as licensed to Microsoft

Google's (Motorola's) push email synchronization patent, EP0847654 on a "multiple pager synchronization system and method", was at issue in Mannheim on Friday, where a second Motorola Mobility v. Microsoft trial over this one was held (here's my report, and is going to be discussed in about two months at an appellate hearing in Karlsruhe, where Apple is trying to get a Mannheim injunction affecting the iCloud's email service lifted. There will also be a nullity (invalidiation) hearing at the Munich-based Federal Patent Court, presumably (though not sure) before the end of the year.

This patent is now in bad shape following a December 21, 2012 declaratory judgment by Justice Arnold of the UK High Court holding the patent invalid on multiple grounds and finding that Microsoft is licensed to it. In fact, of all the patents I've seen in the ongoing smartphone patent disputes there isn't any other that has seen its principal claim (claim 1) declared invalid for four independent reasons and additionally raises a licensing issue that can be resolved as easily as the grant-back obligation Google has under an Exchange ActiveSync license deal with Microsoft. This weekend I voiced my outrage at Google's constant attempts to shirk its grant-back obligations, a kind of behavior that undermines the licensing business.

Yesterday I finally obtained -- from three sources -- the full text of the UK ruling. Here it is:

12/21/12 Microsoft v. Motorola (Google) UK judgment by

It's a 40-page document but you can find the most interesting stuff on the last couple of pages. You can see a summary listing the different invalidity contentions that succeeded, and the reciprocal-licensing part is addressed in detail (though not in much detail because the case is exceptionally clear) right before the summary.

I will talk some more about invalidity issues in connection with some upcoming German hearings and decisions. I've published the document so those who want to do their own research have convenient access.

There's just one thing concerning invalidity that I can't help but point out on this occasion. In early August 2011, less than two weeks before the Googlorola deal was announced, Google's chief legal officer David Drummond wrote a corporate blog post centered around the conspiracy theory of "a hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents". Bogus patents. Well, none of those companies' patents-in-suit has, to the best of my knowledge, been found invalid for four different reasons, any single one of which would be enough to take down its main claim (claim 1) -- and especially not in a final ruling (the UK judgment followed a full trial and cannot even be appealed, giving it infinitely more weight than, for example, a first Office action by the USPTO). So how's that for a bogus patent?

Just to be clear: I've been critical of a number of other patents-in-suit, too -- held by a wide variety of companies. As a former anti-software patent campaigner it should come as no surprise that I approach these questions from a rather different angle than the companies Mr. Drummond mentioned in the passage quoted above. But a company that complains about assertions of "bogus patents" only to pay a whopping $12.5 billion for Motorola's patent portfolio, and which presently puts some of its vast litigation resources behind this push patent that is as invalid as it gets should apply a more consistent standard to its assessment of the quality of intellectual property rights. And it should choose to fulfill its reciprocal-licensing obligations because a company that has a reputation for being a reliable partner in licensing will cut more and better license deals going forward than one that signs one thing today and says the opposite in court a few years later.

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