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Google loses key ruling in Microsoft case, other Android lawsuits in similar peril?

In addition to Apple, which has been battling Android device makers in courts for a couple of years, Microsoft also went after the same companies with patent infringement claims.
December 2, 2012
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In addition to Apple, which has been battling Android device makers in courts for a couple of years, Microsoft also went after the same companies with patent infringement claims.

And while the Redmond-based company entered licensing agreements with plenty of them – at one point it was even estimated that Microsoft was making more money off Android handset sales than Google – Motorola failed to settle with the Windows giant.

But the battle has moved to another level, with Google stepping in and purchasing Motorola for its patent chest, thinking that its large patent collection would be enough to keep companies like Apple and Microsoft at bay, and prevent further attacks against Android. And Google payed a hefty sum for that patent trove, $12.5 billion, which is yet to make up for.

The Microsoft vs Motorola lawsuits were inherited by Google, and the Search giant is facing a rather complex ruling in the case, which sounds pretty much like a severe defeat not only in the fight against Microsoft, but also when it comes to all its other legal battles, Apple ones included.

The two-week Microsoft vs Motorola trial is now over, and while we wait for a final verdict we hear that the judge who presided over the case decided that Motorola can’t use its FRAND patents to get an injunction against Microsoft. Sure, the latter may end up paying damages, but that’s definitely not what Google/Motorola would have wanted.

After being sued by Microsoft for alleged patent-infringement, Motorola fought back trying to obtain an injunction against Microsoft products such as the Xbox, that Motorola claims it infringes several of its FRAND patents.

Because they are FRAND patents, which stands for Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory, they can’t be used to obtain injunctions, U.S. District Judge James Robart said in an recent order.

This decision will likely affect other patent-based trials, specifically various lawsuits in which Apple is either suing an Android maker and is being countersued by one that’s using FRAND patents against the iPhone maker  – either Samsung or Motorola at this point (with HTC out of the picture).

We can’t really say we’re surprised to hear that a judge decided FRAND patents can’t be used to obtain injunctions. After all, it’s not the first time this happens. In an Apple vs Motorola case which was dismissed with prejudice this summer, a judge voiced his concerns against Motorola’s intention of obtaining injunctions against Apple based on FRAND patents.

Moreover, in the U.S. trial between Apple and Samsung, the latter did not convince the jury that Apple was infringing any of its FRAND patents.

These legal proceedings between Apple and Microsoft one on side and Android makers on the other side have also lead to subsequent FRAND-related investigations by regulatory commissions in the USA and Europe – Google/Motorola is being targeted by the FTS in the States, with the EU going after Samsung for FRAND patent lawsuits.

We have no idea when a final verdict will be issued in the Microsoft vs Motorola trial, but from this FRAND-related ruling we can only assume that each side will pay the other royalties for the allegedly infringed patents.

The two parties are also fighting it out at the ITC, a regulatory body that can issue product imports following such cases, and it will be interesting to see whether the ITC would award such sales ban for FRAND patent infringement.

But this Microsoft vs Motorola ruling will certainly make Google’s and Samsung’s job a lot tougher in future Android-related patent fights with other opponents, namely Apple.