Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has asked a judge at the International Trade Commission to sanction Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), saying that the company revealed “highly confidential source code” to an expert witness in violation of the court’s rules. The expert accessed the source code as part of Microsoft’s ITC case against Motorola (NYSE: MMI), which alleges that some Android-powered Motorola phones violate Microsoft patents.
Microsoft’s ITC case against Motorola is one of several “proxy battles” against Android-powered phones. Microsoft wants to use patents to collect royalties on every Android-powered handset, and has reached settlements in some cases, including with HTC. But Motorola is fighting back hard, and launched its own ITC counter-suit not long after Microsoft kicked off the fight. Both ITC cases are still pending.
The spat over this source code is a reminder that Google is still heavily involved in these patent proxy-battles over Android, even when it’s not a party to the case. And the search giant is ready, willing, and able to assist handset makers who are tangling with Microsoft in court and at the ITC.
In April, Microsoft sent Google a subpoena asking for a variety of information, including confidential source code. Presumably, that source code involves Android because the patents in this case relate to Android. (Although, the word ‘Android’ is nowhere to be seen in this motion, and the motion doesn’t say anything at all about what kind of source code we’re talking about.)
In its motion [PDF] for sanctions, Google says it should have had a chance to review the credentials of the expert in question, Dr. Robert Stevenson, and it should have had a chance to object. The motion notes that Stevenson has done consulting work for Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ), “both direct competitors of Google.” Now Google wants the ITC judge overseeing the Microsoft v. Motorola case to stop Stevenson from testifying.
Microsoft responded that all of Stevenson’s work was “litigation-related” and his earlier contact with Microsoft was merely “two or three conversations with Microsoft’s outside counsel regarding a case related to printer technology.”
Google has asked for this motion to be considered quickly, with any response from Microsoft due by August 15. Spokespersons from both Google and Microsoft declined to comment on the motion.
» Google Motion For Sanctions, ITC Investigation 337-TA-744 [PDF]