Microsoft Corp., the world’s biggest software maker, won a U.K. ruling invalidating Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc.’s patent protection for technology synchronizing message statuses across multiple devices.
The 2002 patent owned by Google Inc. (GOOG)’s Motorola Mobility unit shouldn’t have been issued because the technology was obvious to experts in the field at the time, Judge Richard Arnold said in a decision in London today. A week-long trial ended earlier this month.
“The patent is invalid and should be revoked,” Arnold said during a 30-second hearing. Both companies had received the written judgment in advance.
The companies are locked in legal battles over patents for smartphone technology and Microsoft’s Xbox gaming software in the U.S. and Germany. Microsoft claims all devices that run on Google’s Android operating system use its technology and is seeking royalties from Motorola Mobility, which Mountain View, California-based Google acquired in May.
Microsoft, based in Redmond, Washington, filed the lawsuit against Motorola Mobility in London a year ago in a pre-emptive bid to invalidate the patent before it could be sued for infringement.
The case is running parallel to Motorola’s lawsuit against Microsoft over the same patent in Germany, where the companies are awaiting a decision. Google has said it bought Motorola Mobility in part because of its patents and history of innovation in mobile phones.
“We’re pleased the court granted our request to invalidate Motorola’s patent and welcome yet another step toward clarifying the cases between our companies,” David Howard, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel, said in an e-mailed statement.
Motorola’s lawyer, Zoe Butler of Powell Gilbert in London, didn’t respond to a call for comment. Motorola’s press office didn’t immediately respond to an e-mailed request for comment.
While the patent in the U.K. trial related to pager technology from the 1990s, the arguments centered on its application to newer mobile devices and computers that also rely on synchronizing messages statuses, such as whether an e-mail has been read by the user, or is unread.
If the patent were valid, Microsoft’s Live Messenger instant-messaging system and Exchange ActiveSync protocol, used by the company’s customers to synchronize e-mail statuses across devices, would have violated the intellectual property, according to the judgment.
The patent in the case had a so-called priority date of Aug. 31, 1995, when Motorola was creating technology for the first two-way pager system that would allow message recipients to respond to communications on the devices for the first time.
Some claims in the patent “add nothing inventive in my view,” Arnold said.
The case is Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) v. Motorola Mobility Inc., case no. HC11C04536, High Court of London, Chancery Division (London).
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