updated 07:31 pm EDT, Tue July 17, 2012
Veto unlikely, Motorola claims to have plan to ensure availability
An import ban on Android devices commanded by the US International Trade Commission is scheduled to take place at midnight tonight, barring a last-minute presidential veto. The ban was ordered two months ago, after a ruling that 18 Motorola Mobility products infringe a Microsoft ActiveSync patent covering meeting request publishing and group scheduling from a mobile device. Motorola claims to have a plan to keep the infringing products available in the US, and will have to pay a $0.33 "import tax" on devices brought into the country during the 60-day presidential review period.
Motorola previously licensed the technology before deciding that it simply didn't need to do so any longer in 2007. To escape the import ban, Motorola could revisit the licensing agreement for ActiveSync, as the majority of other Android device manufacturers do, or issue a software patch to remove the offending technology, either with a workaround or a complete purge of the feature.
"In view of the ITC exclusion order which becomes effective Wednesday with respect to the single ActiveSync patent upheld in Microsoft's ITC-744 proceeding, Motorola has taken proactive measures to ensure that our industry leading smartphones remain available to consumers in the US," Motorola said. "We respect the value of intellectual property and expect other companies to do the same," likely referring to its patent battle and potential Xbox 360 ban for Microsoft's misuse of Motorola's standards-essential H.264 video playback patent and Motorola's potentially FRAND-abusing refusal to license the patent.
The ITC ban covers the Motorola Atrix, Backflip, Bravo, Charm, Cliq, Cliq 2, Cliq XT, Defy, Devour, Droid 2, Droid 2 Global, Droid Pro, Droid X, Droid X2, Flipout, Flipside, Spice, and Xoom tablet. Microsoft claims the import ban "is not limited to these devices at issue in the ITC, but will cover all infringing devices from now until to the expiration of the patent, April 10, 2018." The 2010 complaint references several of the above patents, while not limiting the scope of the complaint to just those handsets.
"Microsoft brought this case only after Motorola stopped licensing our intellectual property but continued to use our inventions in its products," Microsoft's deputy general counsel, David Howard, said in a statement sent to Ars Technica. "It's unfortunate we've been forced to pursue legal action, but the solution for Motorola remains licensing our intellectual property at market rates as most other Android manufacturers have already done."