One day after the International Trade Commission approved a formal ban on certain HTC products that infringe on an Apple patent, an ITC administrative law judge has issued an initial determination finding that Motorola has infringed on four claims of a Microsoft patent with its Android products.
The initial ruling, however, whittles away most of the other patent claims of Microsoft against Motorola. The judge found that Motorola did not infringe on six Microsoft patents. The trade commission will now review the finding and issue a final ruling in the coming months.
Microsoft claimed victory in a statement:
We are pleased with the ITC’s initial determination finding Motorola violated four claims of a Microsoft patent. As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward.
But Motorola also said it also won in the finding, arguing that Microsoft’s case was reduced to just one patent, Motorola General Counsel Scott Offer told AllThingsD.
We view it as a huge win for us. They had originally nine patents in their first case. They are down to one patent effectively
The remaining patent concerns the way in which a device is able to schedule an appointment based on a meeting request using email addresses, contact information and calendar syncing on various devices. Offer told AllThingsD that Motorola is reviewing its option with regard to the remaining patent.
If Motorola, which is being bought by Google, can prevail with the full commission or can limit the claims to single patent, which it can then work around, it will have stood up to Microsoft and its campaign to extract licensing agreements from various Android devices makers. Microsoft has lined up deals with a number of Android makers including Samsung and HTC. It has sued Motorola, Barnes & Noble and others who have resisted striking deals. It’s still possible for Microsoft to get a different ruling from the commission or have some of its invalidated patents put back into play.
Android still faces a lot of attacks from patent holders such Apple and Oracle. British Telecom was the latest to sue Google on Monday after it apparently was unable to get a licensing deal from the search giant. It’s still unclear whether Android can withstand all the legal challenges, but so far, it appears possible for it to work around some of these early defeats. Whether that continues is an open question. Microsoft has about 30 patents in action against Motorola so this is still just early days.