updated 05:35 pm EST, Tue December 20, 2011
ITC makes early ruling against Motorola
Microsoft achieved a key win as the ITC ruled in its favor in a complaint against Motorola. An early ruling from the trade agency found that some Motorola devices allegedly violate one of seven Microsoft patents. The Windows maker's deputy general counsel David Howard took the company's typical approach in a response, saying Microsoft was "pleased" and arguing that every Android device maker must pay royalties.
"As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward," Howard said.
Motorola hasn't commented, but it's likely to challenge the verdict if the final ruling doesn't overturn the decision.
Getting a verdict of the sort would be crucial to Microsoft not just for the civil lawsuit side of its dispute but for the basis of its own arguments. Barnes & Noble, also the target of a lawsuit, has been showing prior art that it believes invalidates many of Microsoft's claims against Android. An ITC decision if upheld could make some of those arguments moot. The bookseller, and many others, have claimed that Microsoft uses strongarm tactics like non-disclosure agreements that prevent anyone from challenging the legitimacy of the patents themselves.
Motorola is at greater risk of problems from losing any ITC or lawsuit fights, since it's staking its entire smartphone future on Android. HTC, Samsung, and others have hedged their bets with Windows Phone and usually get a discount on royalties from Microsoft as a result. With six patents not in violation, though, it may set a precedent that makes it difficult for Microsoft to license the other patents.