Google’s strength in the ongoing smartphone patent wars has come down by a bit. A US appeals court yesterday ruled that Motorola Mobility, which the search giant acquired earlier this year, cannot enforce a patent injunction it acquired against Microsoft in Germany, as per a report by Reuters. The injunction, if enforced, will prohibit Microsoft from “offering, marketing, using or importing or possessing” some products including the Xbox 360 and other Windows applications and software in Germany.
Motorola had sued Microsoft in Germany after the latter filed a lawsuit against it in the United States in 2010. The mobile phone manufacturer had acquired the injunction banning Microsoft from selling some of its products in Germany, following which Microsoft appealed in the United States. US District Judge James Robart in Seattle granted Microsoft's request to put the German order on hold earlier this year. According to Robart, the ruling would remain in effect until he could determine whether Motorola could appropriately seek a sales ban based on its standard essential patents.
Not winning any sales bans againnst Microsoft
According to the report, Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard said the company was pleased with the ruling. A representative for Google's Motorola unit declined to comment.
Microsoft has been quoted in the media as saying Motorola's patents are standard and essential parts of its software products and that Motorola is over-charging the software company for use of its patents.
According to Reuters, yesterday’s ruling upheld the US District Court’s decision to put the German order on hold. US courts have the power to put the injunction obtained by Motorola on hold since Microsoft had already filed a lawsuit against Motorola for breach of contract in the United States, the ruling said.
"At bottom, this case is a private dispute under Washington state contract law between two US corporations," Reuters reported the court as stating.
US antitrust regulators are investigating whether Motorola Mobility is living up to licensing commitments made when its patents were adopted as industry standards. The Federal Trade Commission in June sent civil investigative demands, essentially civil subpoenas, to companies asking them about Motorola Mobility's licensing practices. The industry standards affected have to do with Wi-Fi and video standards.
Standard-setting bodies meet periodically to determine which technology that ensures devices will work together will be used industry-wide. Companies who hold those patents commit to licensing them broadly and on reasonable terms, even to competitors.
The FTC also has a broader investigation underway into whether Google distorts its search results to steer people to its related businesses, like Google Places. The agency recently hired a big name litigator, Beth Wilkinson, to lead its probe.