Friday, April 19, 2013

Federal judge has set FRAND rate for Microsoft's license to Google's standard-essential patents

Judge James L. Robart, the federal judge presiding over the Microsoft v. Motorola FRAND contract case in the Western District of Washington, has determined a FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) license fee (a range of FRAND fees as well as a particular point within the range). In November 2012 Judge Robart held a rate-setting bench trial relating to Google's (Motorola's) H.264 video codec and IEEE 802.11 (WiFi, or WLAN) declared-essential patents. Further briefing with respect to Google's grant-back obligation under a license agreement with patent pool firm MPEG LA and a post-trial hearing took place in the first quarter.

The specific numbers Judge Robart has determined have not been published yet. I just saw an order after which the court "issue[d] its Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law (the 'Findings and Conclusions') determining a reasonable and non-discriminatory royalty rate and range for Motorola's standard essential patents". The findings have been filed under seal and were emailed to counsel of record. The parties have until noon local time on April 25 (next Thursday) to propose redactions of confidential business information. The court will hold a telephone conference with the parties first thing Friday (April 26) morning and then determine which parts of the ruling will be made public and which ones won't.

Judge Robart has already scheduled a second trial, a breach-of-contract trial that may be another bench trial or could be (if Google gets its way) a jury trial, to commence on August 26, 2013. The second trial will address the issue of whether Motorola's initial royalty demand, which in a conservative estimate amounted to $4 billion per year, was blatantly unreasonable and constituted a breach of Motorola's FRAND pledge, which is an enforceable contract.

Shortly after the first trial, Microsoft won a summary judgment decision against Motorola's pursuit of injunctive relief.

Microsoft brought this [F]RAND contract action in November 2010, claiming that Motorola failed to honor its FRAND licensing commitment. Motorola's conduct gave rise to antitrust investigations in the United States and the European Union, and an ITC judge concluded last year that "Motorola was not interested in good faith negotiations and in extending a [F]RAND license" to Microsoft.

Microsoft made a firm commitment to take a license on court-determined FRAND terms.

Today's Seattle FRAND determination is a key event in the patent dispute between Microsoft and Google (Motorola), and not the only Microsoft-Google ruling to have come down today: earlier today the Mannheim Regional Court held that Google is not entitled to injunctive relief against Microsoft over a push notification patent that falls under an ActiveSync license agreement the parties concluded years ago, and stayed the damages-related part of the case over doubts concerning the validity of the patent-in-suit.

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