Germany Could Destroy Motorola Handsets After Microsoft Victory
July 30, 2012 11:11 AM
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 (
) "FAT patent" --
, 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
Apple, Inc.'s (
) iCloud service for a separate infringement against Motorola, and has banned Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd.'s (
Galaxy 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
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. (
) 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
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 has declined to protects its licensees from its partner Apple. [Image Source: BGR]
urged Android smartphone makers
to license its large portfolio of mobile patents.
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.
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