Google’s Motorola Seeks to Prevent Phone Ban in Microsoft Fight

Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Motorola Mobility unit said it is working to ensure there is no disruption in sales of its Android mobile phones that were found to infringe a patent owned by Microsoft Corp. (MSFT)

Barring a last-minute reprieve from President Barack Obama, an order barring imports of some Motorola Mobility phones will take effect tomorrow. The company can get clearance from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection by certifying that it has worked around a Microsoft patent covering a program which lets users coordinate schedules between their phones and personal computers or removed that feature.

“Motorola has taken proactive measures to ensure that our industry-leading smartphones remain available to consumers in the U.S.,” the company said yesterday in a statement without providing details. “We respect the value of intellectual property and expect other companies to do the same.”

The dispute is over a feature called ActiveSync that Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft licenses to other companies. Microsoft won a U.S. International Trade Commission ruling in May that Motorola Mobility can’t import Asia-made smartphones into the U.S. that incorporate ActiveSync. The case targeted models including the Droid 2, Droid X, i1, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip, Charm and Clip that run on Google’s Android operating system.

It’s part of a broader effort by Microsoft to extract patent royalties from devices that run on Android. The company said it gets royalties from 70 percent of the Android smartphones made in the U.S. by companies including Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. (066570) and HTC Corp. (2498) Motorola Mobility had licensed the ActiveSync feature before the contract expired in 2007.

Intellectual Property

“Microsoft brought this case only after Motorola stopped licensing our intellectual property but continued to use our inventions in its products,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said in a statement. “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.”

Motorola Mobility, which was bought by Mountain View, California-based Google in May, has its own case against Microsoft, and is seeking to block imports of the software maker’s Xbox video-gaming system.

Reconsider Findings

The ITC on June 29 ordered one of its judges to reconsider his findings that the Xbox infringed four Motorola Mobility patents. In a statement last month, Microsoft said the review should end in the dismissal of the case.

Motorola Mobility has said it would be willing to license its own patents, some of which cover technologies, such as video compression, that are essential to meeting industrywide standards used by all manufacturers. Microsoft has said the offer was unreasonable and accused Motorola Mobility of breaching its obligations to license such standard-essential patents on fair terms.

The Microsoft case against Motorola Mobility is In the Matter of Mobile Devices, Associated Software and Components Thereof, 337-744, and the Motorola Mobility case against Microsoft is In the Matter of Gaming and Entertainment Consoles, 337-752, both U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Bernard Kohn at bkohn2@bloomberg.net

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