Microsoft Says Motorola’s Android Phones Infringe Its Patents

Microsoft Corp., the world’s largest software maker, began arguing its U.S. trade case that Android-based smartphones made by Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc. use technology derived from Microsoft inventions.

In a trial that began today before the International Trade Commission in Washington, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of infringing seven of its patents and requested a halt to imports of certain Motorola phones. The ITC has the power to stop imports of products that violate U.S. patent rights.

The case is the first smartphone dispute to be heard by the agency since Google Inc. said Aug. 15 it would buy Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion to obtain patents that could be used as a bulwark against a surge of lawsuits targeting handsets and tablet computers that use Google’s Android operating system.

“We have a responsibility to our employees, customers, partners and shareholders to safeguard our intellectual property,” David Howard, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for litigation, said in an e-mail. “Motorola is infringing our patents and we are confident that the ITC will rule in our favor.”

Motorola Mobility is “vigorously defending” itself “against Microsoft’s patent attack business strategy,” Jennifer Erickson, a Motorola Mobility spokeswoman, said in an e-mail. “We have also brought legal actions of our own in the U.S. and in Europe to address Microsoft’s large scale of infringement of Motorola Mobility’s patents.”

Smartphone Market

Microsoft’s claim against Libertyville, Illinois-based Motorola Mobility is one of more than a dozen smartphone cases before the ITC, as companies seek to use patents to gain a bigger share of a market projected by researcher IHS Inc. to reach $206.6 billion this year. Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft makes its own mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, which competes with Android and Apple Inc.’s iPhone.

The Android platform accounted for 43.3 percent of the smartphone market last quarter, according to Stamford, Connecticut-based research firm Gartner Inc. Microsoft, with less than 2 percent of the market, is counting on an agreement with Espoo, Finland-based Nokia Oyj to put Windows Mobile on its phones to increase market share.

Cases brought by Microsoft and Cupertino, California-based Apple are targeting devices that run on Android. Microsoft, which contends all Android devices use its technology, also has a case against Barnes & Noble Inc., targeting the Nook reader.

Testimony in today’s Motorola Mobility trial focused on details about functions that Microsoft calls “essential to the smartphone user experience,” including ways to synchronize e-mail, calendars and contacts; schedule meetings; and notify applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.

Block Imports

Microsoft has asked the agency to block imports of Motorola phones including the Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip and Charm. Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex is scheduled to release his findings in the case Nov. 4, and the commission has a target to complete its investigation by March 5, according to information on the agency’s website.

Mountain View, California-based Google, which wasn’t named in the complaint, accused Microsoft of disclosing Google’s source code to a Microsoft expert without first letting Google know. Essex on Aug. 15 denied Google’s request that sanctions be imposed on Microsoft, saying Google had failed to provide any information that it has made a “reasonable, good-faith effort to resolve the matter with Microsoft.”

The ITC case is In the Matter of Certain Mobile Devices, Associated Software and Components Thereof, 337-744, U.S. International Trade Commission (Washington).