Washington Federal Judge Denies Germany's Right to Ban Windows
April 12, 2012 4:08 PM
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Even if Germans side with Motorola enforcement using FRAND patent is illegal opines judge
Faced with licensing demands from Microsoft Corp. (
) ($10-$15 per handset) and the
threat of a ban
from rival gadgetmaker Apple, Inc. (
), Motorola Mobility has been pushing forward with its
of using its standards-heavy patent portfolio
. That approach currently has it
under antitrust investigation
in the European Union, but has not dissuaded Motorola from pursuing enforcement.
Motorola, a top Android phonemaker, continues to operate independently -- for now -- after Chinese regulators
held up the approval
of the company's
acqusition by Google
). China appears to be using the delay as a means of bargaining with the search engine provider who has
opposed its censorship demands
. That means that for now Motorola Mobility is forging its own way in court.
I. Judge Appears Skeptical of Motorola's FRAND Enforcement
controversial lawsuits against Microsoft
, which span several international courts, hit an unusual snag when the
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington
ruled in a special hearing that Motorola could not enforce a FRAND-based ban on Microsoft in Germany.
Microsoft has complained that Motorola is asking for thousands of times the typical "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" (FRAND) rate (which typically is around 2 cents per device). The patent in question is a Motorola patent on h.264 -- a commonly used video encoding standard.
A Washington federal court has forbidden Motorola from banning Windows sales in Germany until a U.S. case advances.
[Image Source: All About Samsung]
The restraining order, put in place by presiding judge
Judge James Robart
, may be enforceable as Motorola Mobility is a U.S.-based firm. However, it is unusual in that it is a case where a U.S. federal court is moving to essentially strip a top trade partner of its judicial authority in the short term.
In addition to the pending German case, Motorola and Microsoft are duking it out in a corresponding U.S. case that is currently being heard by Judge Robart. Until a May 7 hearing in the U.S. case, Judge Robart says that any attempts to enforce a ban on Windows sales in Germany (via preliminary injunction) would be illegal. He's forcing Motorola to post a $100M USD bond in the interest of compliance.
While the U.S. case has not been ruled on, the decision indicates the presiding Judge is skeptical of the validity of Motorola's FRAND based litigation.
II. What the Ban Might Have Meant to Motorola
Some believed Motorola might pull off a product ban in the Germany ruling, which was set to land on April 17. Germany's legal system works a bit differently in that patent validity is run in a separate track, meaning that in most cases -- even where there's a strong possibility that a patent is bad or being unfairly enforced -- the German court still enforces a ban on the alleged infringed product for the duration of the trial. Apple has achieved
similar bans of Motorola
Comp., Ltd. (
) Android devices in Germany.
Microsoft said the temporary ban on the injunction was necessary, writing in its motion for a restraining order, "If Motorola's sharp tactics are allowed to unfold, Microsoft will be denied a meaningful remedy in this action. Microsoft seeks a preliminary injunction here to preserve the status quo, to preserve this Court's ability to grant Microsoft meaningful relief, and to prevent irreparable harm to Microsoft and the public in the meantime."
Motorola and Microsoft are fighting over 100 patents, but the German case focused on only two, involving the h.264 codec. [Image Source: Joker Blog]
Jess Jenner, a lawyer with Ropes and Gray -- the firm representing Motorola in the U.S. case -- argued that a ban would be acceptable given that Motorola could repay Microsoft if the U.S. court later ruled it to be unfair. And she said the restraining order would be the equivalent of meddling in foreign justice, stating, "You are being asked to interfere with a German court. It's an intolerable intrusion on another country's prerogative."
Judge Robart didn't buy that line of logic.
Microsoft claims that the German lawsuit -- which only involves 2 patents out of the 100 being disputed in the U.S. -- is a mere maneuver to gain leverage by Motorola, exploiting Germany's controversial ban-friendly IP enforcement. As even a temporary ban on Windows sales in the large EU nation would be a financial blow to Microsoft, Motorola could use a ban to try to force a more favorable settlement in the U.S.
A jury trial is scheduled for November in the U.S., if the companies cannot settle their differences before then.
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RE: This is absurd
4/13/2012 8:49:53 AM
Oh what I wouldn't do for an edit button...
Not that the US has jurisdiction in other countries, but US citizens and companies are held to US laws at
RE: This is absurd
4/15/2012 8:31:30 PM
I know you still have to file a tax return if you're abroad (although you may be exempt from paying taxes). But I'm not so sure all U.S. law applies abroad to U.S. citizens. Or could the US government actually arrest you for smoking weed in a cafe in Amsterdam? Doesn't sound right to me. What about U.S. States? If you are a citizen of one State, and do something in another State that is a crime in your home State, can they prosecute you? I think not.
RE: This is absurd
4/17/2012 8:58:12 PM
US law applies to US citizens regardless of location. If it illegal to smoke weed in New York, that particular law is meaningless in Newark. However if the US simply states that it is illegal for a US citizen, then that law applies in Newark, Nuernberg and Hanoi.
An example is statutory rape. Americans are prosecuted each year for having sex with minors while in Thailand. US citizens are also prosecuted for drug deals executed outside the US. Murder someone in Kuwait and you may be subject to arrest and trial in US.
You would be wise when traveling to remember that US law applies to US citizens and there is no need for extradition if you are arrested at a US Port of Entry.
Smoking weed at an Amsterdam cafe is probably fine, going into business as a dealer shipping to a place where it is illegal might have the DEA waiting for you the next time you drop by.
You must realize that there are many things considered crimes in US that can be prosecuted even if the criminal is a non-citizen who has never been to the US. It is just a matter of a US legislature or the Congress declaring it illegal and then either waiting for the unsuspecting perp to visit or file an extradition order with the foreign government.
“Then they pop up and say ‘Hello, surprise! Give us your money or we will shut you down!' Screw them. Seriously, screw them. You can quote me on that.” -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng referencing patent trolls
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