Redmond gets all legal on Motorola, files patent lawsuit

Complaints argue Motorola Android-based phones violate numerous Microsoft patents

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Microsoft announced on Friday it has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola, claiming that Motorola's Android-based smartphones violate no less than nine Microsoft patents.

The legal actions were filed with the International Trade Commission and in U.S. District Court in Washington state.

Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, said in a statement:

“The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola’s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power."

That's a lot of functionality.

Gutierrez concluded, "We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market. Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones.”

Gutierrez also talks about the suit in a somewhat bizarre blog post. Actually, he doesn't talk about the suit so much as how the world should be thankful to Microsoft for creating pretty much anything anyone's ever been able to do with a smartphone.

For its part, Motorola has vowed to vigorously defend itself in court.

It seems weird that Google wasn't named in the lawsuit. After all, isn't Google the creator of the Android mobile operating system? Indeed, Oracle filed an Android-related suit against Google in August. Gutierrez sheds no light on this in his blog. (Any legal types who might be reading this are encouraged to enlighten readers.)

But as to the purpose of the lawsuit itself, Computerworld's Preston Gralla has little doubt:

"Microsoft's suit today against Motorola isn't aimed at Motorola --- it's aimed straight at trying to kill off Android. Microsoft is clearly hoping that its lawyers can do what its technology hasn't been able to do: Figure out a way to stop Android in its tracks, and get traction for Windows Phone 7."

With Windows Phone 7's unveiling expected for the holiday season, his theory makes sense. And given Microsoft's position in the smartphone market -- behind Apple, Google and RIM -- it makes even more sense.

But market battles rarely are won in courtrooms; they're won in the marketplace.

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