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ITC Judge: Microsoft Didn't Infringe Google Patent

An administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) concluded on Friday that Microsoft's imports of its Xbox gaming consoles do not infringe a patent held by Google.

The case involves U.S. Patent No. 6,069,896, held by Motorola Mobility, a company that Google acquired in May. The patent specifies a peer-to-peer wireless invention, and it was the sole remaining complaint of five alleged infringements. The "final initial remand determination" by David P. Shaw, an administrative law judge acting on behalf of the ITC, was the result of an appeal.

"It is held that a violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act, as amended, has not occurred in the importation into the United States, the sale for importation, or the sale within the United States after importation, of certain gaming and entertainment consoles, related software, or components thereof that are alleged to infringe asserted claims 1 and 12 of U.S. Patent No. 6,069,896," Shaw wrote (PDF).

The judge's final determination is subject to review by the ITC's commissioners. Microsoft published a statement presenting the view that the judge's decision will pass Commission review.

"We are pleased with the Administrative Law Judge's finding that Microsoft did not violate Motorola's patent and are confident that this determination will be affirmed by the Commission," said David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel at Microsoft, in a released statement. "The ITC has already terminated its investigation on the other four patents originally asserted by Motorola against Microsoft."

The patent in dispute was not one of the standards-essential patents that caused Microsoft, as well as Apple, to complain to European Commission. Google reached a settlement earlier with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission promising not to seek injunctions against parties willing to license intellectual property associated with standards-essential patents in U.S. federal courts.

Microsoft and Google have been battling it out in courts around the globe for various reasons. However, Google made it clear when it bought Motorola Mobility that it was doing so to bolster its patent portfolio in the context of legal attacks on Android, which is the leading mobile operating system. Android, which Google helped to foster, offering it to device makers royalty free, is based on the Linux open source OS.

Microsoft and Apple have made numerous intellectual property claims on Android, typically associated with usability software patents. It's thought that Microsoft has made more money wresting royalty payments from equipment manufacturers using Android than it has from licensing its own Windows Phone mobile OS.

Google recently announced an Android management change that appears to tighten its Android mobile OS efforts, placing them under its application and Chrome desktop OS efforts. Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt reportedly said that Android and Chrome will stay separate, but that greater overlap between the two products could occur.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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