Print 19 comment(s) - last by MadMan007.. on Dec 25 at 1:45 PM

Ruling could "gimp" Motorola's Android calendar application

Motorola Mobility -- a new subsidiary of Google Inc. (GOOG), pending some final approvals in certain regions (e.g. the European Union) -- is one of the few Android phonemakers to stand up and fight against Microsoft's licensing demands.  Google has waged a highly public battle against Microsoft's patent licensing demands, which could force it to pay $15 or more per device.

The first phase of Motorola/Google's battle with Microsoft has wrapped up with a very small victory for Microsoft Corp. (MSFT).

The administrative law judge (ALJ) presiding over the case at the U.S. International Trade Commission dismissed six of Microsoft's seven infringement claims.  The sole claim confirmed comes in the form of U.S. Patent 6,370,566, which claims the invention of "the ability to schedule a meeting request from the mobile device itself".  The patent goes on to describe a special data field that identifies whether a request has already been transmitted.  Rebroadcast events change this flag, allowing duplicates to be quickly filtered out and ignored.

Android meetings
The infringing feature in Android... [Image Source: Microsoft via Engadget]

(Read here for a full description of the patents Microsoft used in the case, with informative pictures showing where some of them pop up in Android features.)

Now for phonemakers like HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930), who already license from Microsoft [1][2], this ruling does not significantly effect them.  But for for Google and Motorola the situation gets interesting as they must figure out a way to preserve meeting scheduling -- a critical smartphone functionality -- whilst escaping infringment of the Microsoft IP.

In other words, the situation could be far worse for Motorola, but the ruling could still be  a blow to the quality of Motorola's Android distribution, forcing it to either license or remove a key feature.

Microsoft's General Counsel and Executive Vice President, Legal and Corporate Affairs, Brad Smith first broke the news of Microsoft's victory on Twitter, writing:

ITC finds Motorola #patent infringment in #Microsoft case. Another indication that licensing is the best path for the industry.

Motorola/Google and Microsoft will meet again in court on April 20, 2012 when a full ITC panel will deliver its final determination on the infringement claims. Motorola/ Google currently have a counter-complaint filed against Microsoft.  Writes Motorola in a press release:

Microsoft continues to infringe Motorola Mobility’s substantial patent portfolio and Motorola Mobility has active patent infringement litigation and proceedings against Microsoft in a number of jurisdictions, including the ITC. Motorola Mobility remains confident in its position and will continue to move forward with its complaints.

Reportedly, Microsoft now makes more money off of licensing its patents to Android phonemakers than it does selling operating system licenses for its own Windows Phone smartphones.

Sources: Brad Smith (Twitter), Motorola, Google Patents

Comments     Threshold

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By Samus on 12/21/2011 5:39:47 PM , Rating: 2
The schedule a meeting patent seems legit, and impossible for Google to work around, so they might as well license it. The technology is a lot deeper than just setting a calender event. It checks for conflicts and self-updates changes to the meeting from other parties: functionality that dates back to Outlook 2000 and Windows Mobile 2005.

But $15 to license that single feature seems steep. They might have forcing cross-licensing during a counter-suit, but with the way patent licensing works in this world, I doubt this will end civilized.

RE: Legit
By a5cent on 12/21/2011 5:51:16 PM , Rating: 3
Yes, there is more to it than simply setting a calender event. However, there really isn't anything non trivial going on here. Many 12 year old nerds could envision such a system. It's ridiculously simple when compared to something like compression algorithms or visual recognition systems. From my perspective, if MS can patent this, then I should be able to patent the way I make my bed each morning and sue everyone that does it similarly. I really don't see any significant difference. There is nothing worthy of the term "invention" in this patent.

RE: Legit
By borismkv on 12/21/2011 7:40:56 PM , Rating: 2
Welcome to the world of software patents. The whole system is a pile a manure.

RE: Legit
By aromero78 on 12/22/2011 9:21:12 AM , Rating: 3
You are infringing on my smart ass remark patent. You will be receiving a letter from my legal team.

RE: Legit
By NellyFromMA on 12/22/2011 12:52:00 PM , Rating: 1
Envisioning a system has nothing to do with implementing one. I can envision quite a bit, that doesn't mean a single thing.........

In the real world, you come up with a concept, try it, figure out what did and didn't work, and work to get it where you want it to be. Bug fixing and such. When you have a working system that actually took time effort and resources, you go patent that system.

Why? Well, because you just did all that work, that's why...

It takes more than a 12 year old going "wow, seems simple".

RE: Legit
By MadMan007 on 12/25/2011 1:45:44 PM , Rating: 2
By your logic then specific implementations should be patentable and I agree. The problem with software patents is that general methods or ideas - the end result - are too easily patentable, not specific implementations or what you call a 'working system'.

We could see real improvements if specific implementations were the only thing patentable. That would create incentives to optimize code and 'build a beter mouse trap' rather than the current system where software patents are ideas not specific implementations.

RE: Legit
By fic2 on 12/22/2011 2:30:51 PM , Rating: 2
Glad I don't make my bed every morning. Hate to be sued for that.

RE: Legit
By idiot77 on 12/21/2011 8:13:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, if only I had patented all the stupid Access Database methods I made back when I was in college. I'd never have to work again.

RE: Legit
By toyotabedzrock on 12/22/2011 11:04:35 PM , Rating: 2
Or back to blackberry? Or Lotus Notes? And isn't the feature performed on an exchange server or the relevant mail server?

By AlvinCool on 12/21/2011 5:50:47 PM , Rating: 2
I believe Palm had this ability before Microsoft. Maybe the HP spin off is worth something after all.

RE: Palm
By mcnabney on 12/22/2011 9:45:31 AM , Rating: 5
The whole idea is stupid. Functions like this shouldn't be patentable at all. A mobile device is just a flipping computer. Why does the size matter?
Everybody read about IBM predicting 'mind control' being a future tech ability? Does that mean we should all rush out a patent every possible computer function "by way of mind control"?
"Moving cursor by mind control"
"Predictive text by mind control"
"Controlling a digital avatar by mind control"

All these patents do is keep the big corportions rich (the ones with the patent portfolios) and the small companies helpless to compete since they will not be able to acquire the meaningless patents and the armies of lawyers to wield them.

RE: Palm
By Ramstark on 12/22/2011 12:56:01 PM , Rating: 2
Patenting those terms right now...:D

RE: Palm
By NellyFromMA on 12/22/2011 12:56:08 PM , Rating: 2
Compare what you're saying to the automobile industry, or virtually any other industry and tell me the peices that are patented to make the sum of the product aren't patentable in those scenarios either and then maybe this will make sense.

It seems natural to you because you are savvy enough. You have basic understandings (at least) of the principles of the matter at hand.

A mechanic might say the same thing in his area of profession but just because it might 'click' in your head hardly means it didn't take time and effort to implement their own solution.

That's life. The main difference here is cars and their parts aren't open source; you can't just copy and paste someones care and have another car. They are made with finite resources and are actual material objects. That hardly means someone else should lose out on their hard earned investment because it can be copied and proliferated with such ease.


RE: Palm
By fic2 on 12/22/2011 2:34:30 PM , Rating: 2
Ahh, but to be patentable it is supposed to be non-obvious to someone skilled in the area.

Unfortunately it seems that patent examiners are not skilled in any areas including their own jobs.

Too bad
By sprockkets on 12/21/2011 6:51:59 PM , Rating: 5
The administrative law judge (ALJ) presiding over the case at the U.S. International Trade Commission dismissed six of Microsoft's seven infringement claims.

Microsoft lost this round. Even if they had such a small victory, those other patents deemed non infringing are going to hurt future patent agreements with android/linux hardware makers.

I respect Moto for standing up to this BS instead of just capitulating like the rest.

RE: Too bad
By bbomb on 12/21/2011 11:10:11 PM , Rating: 2
Now the companies who paid Microsoft for them patents pretty much just screwed themselves by not fighting them.

Title wrong or story missing?
By CZroe on 12/22/2011 9:55:21 AM , Rating: 3
"ITC Tells Motorola it Infringed on Microsoft Patent, Motorola Cheers Decision"
Shouldn't that last part be "Microsoft Cheers Decision?" I thought it was a hook, got hooked, and read the whole article looking for an explanation of why Moto was happy to lose. I didn't find one and now I see that no other commenters bothered to read the title?

RE: Title wrong or story missing?
By sprockkets on 12/22/2011 10:16:05 AM , Rating: 2
Motorola was found not infringing on 6/7 patents, not a 100% victory but I'd be happy. I mean, seriously, how many times do you schedule a meeting on your phone via the calendar? Just send a damn email to your recipients and put it in the calendar manually.

If they infringed on say a CPU patent or some other stupid overly broad patent android would be screwed.

I don't understand the problem
By DT_Reader on 12/22/2011 11:44:23 AM , Rating: 1
What's the big deal? Android devices don't/can't sync their email/calendars with Outlook anyway; it all goes through Gmail. So why can't Google add functionality to Gmail to recognize the duplicate calendar entry and ignore it? Sure, the device will burn a few bytes of your monthly data allotment every time you re-transmit that appointment, but is that worth paying MS $15? And if you sync with an Exchange Server, then Exchange should have to deal with the duplicate entries.

If Exchange can't recognize and ignore duplicate calendar entries then MS's corporate customers should complain about that, or buy their employees Windows phones.

Besides, while setting a flag when the appointment is transmitted is the obvious, "why the hell did they grant a patient for that?" way to do it, there are other ways. They could store a hash of each transmitted appointment and check that list instead of the flag. They could number each appointment and store a list of those numbers. They could store a list of the pointers to the appointments. Whatever. And if anyone patents any of those ideas, I claim 50% royalty.

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