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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



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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.




"If they're going to pirate somebody, we want it to be us rather than somebody else." -- Microsoft Business Group President Jeff Raikes














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