A U.S. trade panel has decided to defer a final ruling on a complaint filed by Google unit Motorola Mobility accusing Microsoft of infringing its patents to make its popular Xbox. A judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission ruled in April that Microsoft infringed four patents owned by Motorola Mobility, now a Google unit, but did not infringe on a fifth named in the complaint.
The full commission said on Friday that it would send the case back to the judge for reconsideration. That reconsideration will likely take months. A final decision in the case had been expected in August.
Motorola Mobility, which was recently acquired by Google, had asked for the infringing devices to be barred from importation into the United States. The ITC is a popular venue for patent lawsuits because it can bar the importation of infringing products and because it issues decisions relatively quickly. Motorola Mobility had accused Microsoft of infringing on patents for technology like wireless connection of the Xbox to the Internet and technology for video compression to speed transmission.
Patent wars heat up between MOTO and MS
Friday's ITC decision "should result in dismissal of Motorola's entire case against the Xbox," said Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard. "On three patents the commission directed the judge to apply clear legal authority that should result in dismissal of those patents. In addition, the commission directed the judge to consider whether certain contractual commitments made by Google should result in dismissal of the remaining patent."
Motorola Mobility has filed related lawsuits against Microsoft in federal courts in Wisconsin and Florida. They are stayed pending an ITC decision.
In a related case in Germany, a court in Mannheim ordered Microsoft in early May to remove its popular Xbox gaming consoles and Windows 7 operating system software from the German market.
Microsoft maintains it will not need to because a judge in Seattle gave Microsoft a preliminary injunction against Motorola Mobility to prevent enforcement of any German court order.
In a further development in the patent wars, U.S. antitrust regulators are investigating whether Motorola Mobility is living up to licensing commitments it made when its patents were adopted as industry standards, sources said on Friday.
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