Homecourt Judge: Microsoft's Patents are ~1,000x More Valuable Than Motorola's
April 26, 2013 12:03 PM
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Seattle federal judge rules that developing standards is pretty much worthless
Imagine you are a company who has the expertise and experience to develop and patent crucial technologies that are subsequently embraced by your market segment. You'd think that'd be the ticket to big royalties. But you'd likely be wrong.
I. Local Judge Deals Big Win for Microsoft
this week Federal Judge James Robart of the
U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington
ruled that Microsoft Corp. (
) had to pay next to nothing -- a mere $1.8M USD -- to license Google Inc. (
) subsidiary Motorola's
portfolio of video and wireless patents
, which likely cost tens of millions (if not more) to develop.
At a courthouse in Seattle, just 16 miles east of Microsoft's Redmond campus, the home-court judge dealt the big win for Microsoft on Thursday. The royalties ruling comes nearly in line with Microsoft's requested figure -- $1M USD -- and falls far from the $4B USD Google Inc. (
) was hoping for.
demands much higher royalties
from phonemakers who use Google's Android platform. In Q1 2013 Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (
shipped 70.7 million Android smartphones
, and reportedly paid a toll of
$15 USD per handset
-- indicating that Samsung alone may have paid Microsoft over a billion dollars in licensing royalties for the quarter.
Microsoft has to pay virtually nothing to license Google's video codec patents, yet can demand billions from Android OEMs. [Image Source: WP Central]
Add in royalties from LG Electronics, Inc. (
) -- the second, fourth, and fifth largest Android phone sellers, respectively -- and Microsoft is likely making $1-1.5B USD or more from royalties alone.
While one can certainly argue the respective merits over Microsoft's largely API and UI based operating system portfolio versus Motorola's mobile firmware and codec centered patent portfolio in terms of good versus better, the court's ruling does not compare the portfolios in relative terms -- it gives Google orders of magnitude less.
One might argue that the Android OEMs should have challenged Microsoft's high licensing fees and took the case to court. But Samsung learned first hand that outcome is often just as bad. It was ordered to pay Apple, Inc. (
over a billion dollars in a Calif. jury verdict
for three utility and three design patents.
II. Punish Those Who Cooperate
On the surface this all seems to suggest that Motorola and its fellow Android phonemakers' patents are pretty much worthless, while Microsoft and Apple have tapped some sort of special brilliance. But on a deeper level it appears to be that the judge's ruling -- combined with Apple's Californian court win over Samsung -- give an effective ruling that cooperating among companies via the development of patented standards is basically worthless.
Historically patents developed as part of a standard and licensed under
fair-reasonable and non-discriminatory
(FRAND) terms have had lower royalty rates, so there's no arguing that the amounts in question do have a historical basis. What has changed, though, is the tremendous inflation in valuation of non-FRAND patents. Decades ago non-FRAND patents might be worth up to 10 times more than FRAND patents, but carried risk in that you had to take the infringer to court and win. Now with the value of non-FRAND patents worth around 1,000 times more than FRAND patents, that risk is essentially a moot point.
Recent federal rulings have pretty much told the phone industry to adopt an "every man for himself" model and abandon cooperation. [Image Source: 123rf]
If FRAND patents are being licensed for approximately 1,000 times less than non-standards patents, it basically means that
a company would be insane to cooperate with its peers
. It's an issue that we've discussed here before, and it's an issue that remains very real and provocative.
David Howard, Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel, bragged in a statement, "This decision is good for consumers because it ensures patented technology committed to standards remains affordable for everyone."
But ultimately if this precedent sticks in the U.S., the long-term outcome may be that there will be no more standards work and no more standards patents in the mobile industry (and potentially other industries as well).
bad news for Google
, a company who has promoted cooperation and exchange of ideas in the smartphone industry. The recent federal court verdicts seem to send a clear message to the smartphone industry -- every man for himself. Google doesn't fit with that model, and is being punished to the tune of billions for trying to promote cooperation and equal licensing rates.
Because according to this and other recent rulings, FRAND patents are pretty much worthless, with similar patents not developed as part of a standard being around 1,000 times more valuable.
Google is appealing the decision.
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RE: What did you expect?
4/26/2013 1:07:26 PM
If our legal system is a joke then what do you call the other countries?
RE: What did you expect?
4/26/2013 8:19:29 PM
It's not nearly as bad in other nations.
The United States has a mere 5% of the worlds population, yet has a quarter of the worlds prison population.
They also use extradition treaties with other countries that are supposed to be for terrorism and is instead used on those who download Music/Movies illegally.
To me, the American legal system is incredibly abusive towards the people, allot of the people in it have done only small crimes, which the taxpayer/people end up supporting by providing 3 meals a day, roof over their head and all the comforts of home.
They really should fit the punishment to the crime, instead of locking people up for petty crimes, they should force them to work for the community, fixing up roads, parks etc'.
Also removes the taxpayer burden too...
RE: What did you expect?
4/29/2013 9:14:59 AM
What other nations is that?
I don't know where people come up with this BS. The US is not perfect but this is not the land of mayhem. I'm pretty sure your prisoners statistics are not true. Other countries have major problems like a lack of court, lack of law enforcements, execution before proving guilty without doubt, etc.. etc..
Terrorism and media cases are dealt with through different courts. Terrorism also does not need civil court, but military. I don't even know what you're talking about here except to mislead with made up non-facts.
The American legal system is actually one of the most pro-people system you can have. Where else in the world can you get away with murder if the cop forgets to read you your Miranda rights? Maybe you think the Italians do such a good job with the law.
Ok, our judicial systems are good but not perfect just like any other country. Last I checked, I see prisoners pick up trash on the highway, first time offenders do hundreds to thousands of community service, there's even prisons with real jobs for inmates and they get paid, etc.. etc...
RE: What did you expect?
5/1/2013 7:58:46 AM
I'm pretty sure your prisoners statistics are not true.
The United States has the highest documented incarceration rate in the world (743 per 100,000 population), Russia has the second highest rate (577 per 100,000), followed by Rwanda (561 per 100,000). As of year-end 2009 the USA rate was 743 adults incarcerated in prisons and jails per 100,000 population.
At year-end 2007 the United States had less than 5% of the world's population and 23.4% of the world's prison and jail population (adult inmates).
research before you open your mouth?
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