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Court finds Android phonemaker in violation of Microsoft file system patent, orders handset destruction

There's been another casualty in Germany, the most ban-friendly battleground of the mobile patent war: Motorola Mobility's flagship Android smartphones.

I. Motorola Handsets Slated for Destruction

In a ruling by the Mannheim Regional Court, Motorola Mobility was found to infringe on Microsoft Corp.'s (MSFT) "FAT patent" -- EP0578205  (A2), a patent that covers a "multiple file name referencing system".

The decision came after a judge in the same court awarded Motorola with a ban on Microsoft's Windows and Xbox 360 in Germany after he found that Microsoft had violated two of Motorola's patents on the h.264 video standard.  The same German court has also banned Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iCloud service for a separate infringement against Motorola, and has banned Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (KSC:005930Galaxy Tab 7.7 for an alleged design infringement against the 9.7-inch iPad.

Banning Windows or an entire smartphone lineup may seem bizarre by American standards, but its par for the course in Germany.  The nation has slightly lower criteria for banning products in cases of probable infringement.  The country also carries out infringement and patent invalidity queries along separate tracks, making it harder to avoid a ban by invalidating a bad patent.  Combined, these subtle difference sum to a "ban first ask question later" policy that is unusual even by European Union standards.


The Motorola Atrix 4G is among the Android handsets slated for destruction under a punitive German court ruling. [Image Source: Philip Kamrass/ Times Union]

The latest ruling, which pertains to Microsoft's ubiquitous File Allocation Table (FAT) file system, is among the more severe as Motorola has been ordered to recall all its smartphones with the technology and surrender all its stock.  The handsets will be destroyed as per the court order.

Court spokesman Joachim Bock says Motorola will also have to pay Microsoft damages for all the handsets it has sold.  Microsoft will have to pay a bond, he added, to enforce the preliminary ruling.  He commented, "If Microsoft wants to execute the decision now, they will have to pay a security deposit which is between 10 and 30 million euro."

(€10M = $12.25M USD; €30M = $36.75M USD;)

II. Microsoft: A Questionable Ally; a Dangerous Enemy

Microsoft cheered the ruling, commenting:

Today's decision, which follows similar rulings in the U.S. and Germany, is further proof that Motorola Mobility is broadly infringing Microsoft's intellectual property.

Among its handsets that to be destroyed are its flagship models -- the Motorola Atrix, the Droid Razr, and the Droid Razr Maxx.  The company in May became a subunit of Google, Inc. (GOOG) and continues to lose money despite Google's hopes for a turnaround.

Motorola, however, is likely to appeal this damaging ruling. A representative for the company released the following statement to AllThingsD:

We are in [the] process of reviewing the ruling, and will explore all of our options, including appeal. We don’t anticipate an impact on our operations at this time.

In the U.S., a final ruling the Motorola Mobile v. Microsoft battle has been delayed.  One Judge in a preliminary examination recommended banning Microsoft's Xbox 360 from sale in the U.S.  A separate U.S. International Trade Commission three judge panel has suggested banning the import of all Motorola Mobility smartphones on the ground of a different patent --  U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566 -- a patent which covers scheduling meetings on a mobile device.

Microsoft sign
Microsoft has declined to protects its licensees from its partner Apple. [Image Source: BGR]

Microsoft has urged Android smartphone makers to license its large portfolio of mobile patents.  Both HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and Samsung complied, paying between $10 and $15 USD per device.  However, Microsoft has thus far declined to protect its licensees against Apple, another large mobile patent holder who itself is party to a cross-licensing pact with Microsoft.

In other words, Microsoft makes a pretty poor ally, but it makes a dangerous enemy presenting Android phonemakers with a difficult decision.  Motorola decided to gamble and refuse to license, and now it's preparing to pay the ultimate price in Germany.

Sources: ComputerWorld, AllThingsD



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So why didn't...
By Motoman on 7/30/2012 11:27:37 AM , Rating: 5
...the judge demand that XBoxes get destroyed in the same manner?

At any rate, I've been saying all along just let everybody ban everybody else, and when no one can sell anything, tear the system down and rebuild it in a non-moronic manner.

Motorola got Microsoft banned. Microsoft got Motorola banned. Everybody loses. Yay!




RE: So why didn't...
By MrBlastman on 7/30/2012 11:36:01 AM , Rating: 3
This is pretty stupid. The whole patent war is stupid. Trying to win over people with lawyers is stupid.

Look, we're people. We buy what we like and want, not what some court orders us to use. We all lose when stupid things like this happen.


RE: So why didn't...
By Brandon Hill (blog) on 7/30/2012 11:37:50 AM , Rating: 5
I say let the CEOs duke it out in a fist fight. I'm sure Ballmer could bruise his way through quite a few bouts ;)


RE: So why didn't...
By MrBlastman on 7/30/2012 11:46:56 AM , Rating: 2
That or a game of Quake/Doom/Duke3d--h ardcore shooters only. I'd love to see that. :)


RE: So why didn't...
By drycrust3 on 7/30/2012 12:49:31 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
We all lose when stupid things like this happen.

Totally agree. While Microsoft's lawyers call it a victory, it isn't, it's just a sad stepping stone along a path that leads to nowhere.
To me, one of the sad things here is why Motorola can't just change the file system from FAT to something else, e.g. JFFS2 or YAFFS?


RE: So why didn't...
By sprockkets on 7/30/2012 1:23:34 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure about Moto, but 4.0 and up uses MTP only for file access, thus negating direct file access for the computer. This means a MS computer can still add files to an android phone but not worry about the FS type being EXT4.

Ironically it doesn't work well in Linux (since it is a MS protocol). At least nowadays it will allow .ogg files to go in. Before it flat out denied it - now it will allow you to with a warning.

It's becoming a moot point really - I paid $1.40 for an app to move stuff over via a web browser on the LAN.


RE: So why didn't...
By Lonyo on 7/30/2012 12:13:21 PM , Rating: 5
Because IIRC the Xbox patent related to h264, which is FRAND based. Destroying something because they are not licensing something as they dispute the licensor is offering legit terms isn't the same as not licensing something that you don't have any right to license.

Microsoft basically have a right to the relevant h264 patents, on fair, reasonable and non discriminatory terms. Motorola are just plain infringing on Microsoft's patent.

It's not a straight patent infringement vs patent infringement situation.


RE: So why didn't...
By nafhan on 7/30/2012 12:27:45 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's not a straight patent infringement vs patent infringement situation.
Sure it is. Those are just details. The outcome currently appears to be: the consumer loses big time. FRAND is not a terrible idea, but it is a to small band-aid on a broken system.

Also, doesn't "destroy" seem a bit extreme? Shouldn't they just ship them back to Motorola or something?


RE: So why didn't...
By ProZach on 7/31/2012 7:25:07 PM , Rating: 1
Destroying handsets does seem extreme. In my Ameri-centric opinion, it's at at minimum unethical.

I would imagine the affected devices' FS only exists in software/firmware can be wiped and replaced. No need to throw the actual handsets themselves in the fire.


RE: So why didn't...
By ProZach on 7/31/2012 7:25:20 PM , Rating: 1
Destroying handsets does seem extreme. In my Ameri-centric opinion, it's at minimum unethical.

I would imagine the affected devices' FS only exists in software/firmware can be wiped and replaced. No need to throw the actual handsets themselves in the fire.


RE: So why didn't...
By augiem on 7/30/2012 1:56:08 PM , Rating: 2
Germany is quickly going to become an electronics wasteland. If this had happened 20 years ago, now everyone would still be stuck using VCRs and cassette Walkmans still. All the kids growing up there will be fueling a black market for the latest gadgets smuggled in from neighboring countries with more sensible judges.


RE: So why didn't...
By B3an on 7/30/2012 2:36:35 PM , Rating: 4
You would have thought that Germany would have learned from the Nazi's banning loads of things. But they never learn. Seriously messed up people and culture.


RE: So why didn't...
By Motoman on 7/30/2012 3:14:22 PM , Rating: 4
...right. Because America is just peachy.


RE: So why didn't...
By B3an on 7/30/2012 8:55:56 PM , Rating: 1
I'm not from America.


RE: So why didn't...
By freedom4556 on 8/1/2012 1:05:33 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
I'm not from America.


Riiight, because whatever socialist country you're from is just peachy.


RE: So why didn't...
By JediJeb on 7/30/2012 6:34:05 PM , Rating: 5
quote:
Seriously messed up people and culture.


I wouldn't quite say "seriously" messed up. The Germans are the only European Union member that more or less believes in only spending money that you have and people working for what they get, instead of countries like Greece that give out money they don't have and have let themselves get in such bad financial shape they are bleeding the rest of the EU dry.

One section of their legal system being messed up doesn't mean the whole culture and people are.


RE: So why didn't...
By Ramtech on 7/30/2012 9:34:09 PM , Rating: 2
Right so UKs pervasive surveillance was inspired by third Reich
- how about Presumption of innocence this citation from wiki explains that in UK it is nonexistent
Citizens can therefore be convicted and imprisoned without any evidence that the encrypted material was unlawful

I can dig up even more if you'd like best regards to Airstrip One


RE: So why didn't...
By Ramtech on 7/30/2012 9:36:17 PM , Rating: 2
Correction

Right so UKs pervasive surveillance wasn't? inspired by third Reich


RE: So why didn't...
By whitt107 on 7/31/2012 3:13:51 AM , Rating: 2
Ever since this started, I've always wondered if anyone could make patents on a patent making system, then sue whoever does patenting for infringement.


RE: So why didn't...
By gorehound on 7/31/2012 8:44:10 AM , Rating: 2
Germany is Patent Troll Country for Europe.
Lawsuit after Lawsuit !


"There's no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share. No chance." -- Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer














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