Print 21 comment(s) - last by JasonMick.. on Oct 2 at 12:20 PM

Appeals court ruling offers Microsoft a key win in its legal battle against Android

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) appears to have dodged a major bullet in its legal battle against Android operating system maker Google Inc. (GOOG).

I. German Windows Ban Dealt a Deathblow

While most Android OEMs have caved to Microsoft's licensing demands, Google vowed to fight back.  It has been using its $12.5B USD acquisition -- patent-rich Motorola Mobility -- as a key tool in that battle.  

A win would likely free Motorola's fellow Android OEMs from licensing fees, while a loss would mean that Google would be forced to accept that part of the revenue from every Android phone sold go to Microsoft (typically, $10 or more per phone).

Motorola was seemingly on the verge of a major win, thanks to a German court's decision to ban the Xbox 360 and certain versions of Windows for possibly infringing on Motorola's patents.  However, that ban was called into question when U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington Judge James Robart -- a judge in Microsoft's home state -- ordered that it would be illegal for Google to enforce the ban in Germany.

Google on Motorola
A judge has blocked Google from banning Microsoft products in Germany via Motorola.
[Image Source: TechnoBuffalo]
Now, a panel at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has upheld that ruling, commenting, "At bottom, this case is a private dispute under Washington state contract law between two U.S. corporations."

II. Microsoft Can Ban Motorola, but Motorola Can't Ban Microsoft: Fair?

The message is that Google/Motorola cannot fight their war by proxy in Germany, a nation with a reputation for "banning first, asking questions later."

But the ruling also raises certain questions, as it did not prohibit Microsoft from enforcing its own German ban on Motorola's products.  Much like Motorola, Microsoft secured the ban from a German court months ago.  As a result Motorola's Android handset stock in the German nation may soon be taken to disposal locations and destroyed.

While it may seem puzzling how a U.S. court can prevent a German court from banning products, it can effectively do so as Motorola resides in the U.S. and could face fines and other penalties if it refuses to comply.  Thus U.S. courts can in roundabout fashion prevent foreign court rulings, when the ruling is made in favor of a domestic company and the American court opposes it.

Motorola h.264
Motorola's German suit involved two patents covering the h.264 codec. [Image Source: Joker Blog]

The now-defunct German ruling was based on a pair of h.264 patents -- EP0538667, a patent on an "adaptive motion compensation using a plurality of motion compensators" (filed in 1992), and EP0615384 a patent on an "adaptive compression of digital video data" (filed in 1994).  As these are standards patents, Motorola may face additional punishments following an antitrust investigation by EU inquisitors regarding FRAND licensing abuses (as Motorola potentially should not have been able to sue with the patents).

Source: NBC News

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Headline Not Quite Accurate
By KPOM1 on 10/1/2012 3:13:11 PM , Rating: 3
The U.S. Court isn't preventing the German court from doing anything, since it can't. What they are doing is preventing Motorola Mobility from taking action to enforce the court ruling they obtained in Germany because the U.S. judge believed Motorola Mobility went "forum shopping" in an attempt to end-around the U.S. court where Motorola Mobility and Microsoft had been arguing their cases. The issue isn't the validity of the patents in Germany. The issue is whether Microsoft can require Motorola Mobility to issue it a license to that technology under Washington state contract law.

U.S. court's don't issue these rulings at the drop of a hat. The ruling goes into a lot more detail as to their reasoning.

RE: Headline Not Quite Accurate
By JasonMick on 10/1/12, Rating: 0
RE: Headline Not Quite Accurate
By Insurgence on 10/1/2012 5:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
U.S. court's don't issue these rulings at the drop of a hat. The ruling goes into a lot more detail as to their reasoning.

And I'm sure detailed and complex reasoning went into the ruling that Samsung deliberately and flagrantly infringed on Apple, and now owes it $1B USD, right?

I'm sorry you can't have it both ways.

The differences are that the Moto vs MS trial was an Appeals Court, and not a trial by jury. Where as the Samsung vs Apple was not through an appeals court, while it was also left up to a jury to make the decision. Of which there is now controversy as to how they made that decision.

Appeals Courts also have a strong tendency to make decisions that lower courts may not make.

RE: Headline Not Quite Accurate
By KPOM1 on 10/1/2012 7:33:52 PM , Rating: 2
When did I even mention Apple v. Samsung? That isn't relevant to this case, which is Motorola Mobility vs. Microsoft. Apple v. Samsung was a jury trial regarding US patents in the US. They key issues were whether Apple and or Samsung had valid patents in the US, and whether the other parties infringed upon them. Juries in the US don't need to explain their rationale as they decide upon matters of fact.

The issue in the Microsoft/Motorola Mobility ruling was whether an American company could be prevented from taking action in a foreign court that would render moot a court case that is properly being decided in an American court. Microsoft's dispute with Motorola Mobility isn't about the validity or enforceability of German patents. It's about a contract dispute in the US. The ruling was a decision on an interlocutory appeal by a federal appeals court. Unlike juries, appellate courts need to justify their reasoning, which the decision clearly does.

You are the one trying to have it both ways.

RE: Headline Not Quite Accurate
By JasonMick on 10/2/2012 12:20:18 PM , Rating: 1
When did I even mention Apple v. Samsung?
You didn't; I did because it was relevant.
That isn't relevant to this case, which is Motorola Mobility vs. Microsoft. Apple v. Samsung was a jury trial regarding US patents in the US.
I would argue you are incorrect.

While this particular decision dealt with a different angle of the particular case, in both legal battles Microsoft v. Google/Samsung v. Apple the broad pieces of the case are nearly identical.

Explicitly, in both cases the key conflict is Android versus and established player, the key dispute is centered around U.S. patents, a side dispute is efforts to ban the other side's devices in Germany or other plaintiff-friendly jurisdictions, and where both sides are also seeking bans via the ITC as an alternate route.

If you look at the cases as a whole they are remarkably similar. And I believe when making decisions that affect a broad legal battle, the big picture must be considered. Hence the Apple v. Samsung case is, in my opinion, absolutely pertinent.

The only difference, which I feel is worth noting is that Microsoft's methodology is to force competitors into damaging license, to achieve an end goal of giving its products a competitive advantage. Apple's end goal (giving its products a competitive advantage) is identical, but its methodology for doing that is a bit more severe -- via seeking outright bans.
Unlike juries, appellate courts need to justify their reasoning, which the decision clearly does.
Correct, but remember in Apple v. Samsung, the individual who ultimately delivered the ruling was not the jury but the judge. The jury in civil litigation cases typically offers a guideline, which for damages and finding of guilt, which the judge TYPICALLY follows.

However, judges do have to justify their decision, and they can and sometimes do reverse the jury's verdict, if they feel the jury misunderstood the law. In both this case and Samsung v. Apple, it was a federal judge who made the initial decision, offering justification for their decision. It's true a jury was involved in the Apple v. Samsung case, but in both cases it was a judge who delivered the ruling.

In this case however, I would agree with you in a sense in that if an Appeals court upholds a ruling it MAY support its validity. However, it's foolish to wholly dismiss the possibility for bias/bad rulings from federal appeals courts and more than it is to dismiss the possibility or bias/bad rulings from federal district courts. The difference is just a relative improvement.

"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs

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