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Microsoft Complains U.S. Not Banning Motorola Devices

Microsoft filed a legal complaint on Friday against the U.S. government for not enforcing a ban on the import of some Motorola Mobility smartphone devices.

The complaint is directed to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Microsoft claims that Motorola devices using Microsoft's patented ActiveSync calendar-scheduling technology are still getting imported into the United States, despite a May 2012 exclusion order issued by the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), which became final on July 18, 2012. In addition, Microsoft is complaining that Motorola held "secret" talks with CBP officials to allow the devices to be imported.

According to Microsoft's complaint (13-1063) filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, Motorola officials met with CBP officials and convinced them that Motorola had redesigned its calendar-scheduling technology to use Google's servers instead of Microsoft Exchange servers. Microsoft contends that changing the technology to use Google's servers doesn't free Motorola from the ITC's ban, and that the CBP isn't following the law as expressed in the ITC's exclusion order.

Microsoft claims that it wasn't informed of the meeting between CBP and Motorola officials, nor did it hear about the redesign proposed then. Moreover, it wasn't given a chance to dispute the April 25, 2013 ruling by the CBP that the redesign did not infringe Microsoft's patent (U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566).

The infringing Motorola devices are described in Microsoft's complaint as "Emtrace-supported devices." Emtrace Technologies is a privately held provider of mobile smartphone applications with offices in the United States and Korea.

Microsoft wants the U.S. District Court to issue a ban on U.S. imports of the infringing Motorola devices, as well as a recall on those already imported. The complaint describes the CBP's behavior as "arbitrary" and "contrary to law."

This case is one in a series of ongoing legal disputes between Microsoft and Google-owned Motorola Mobility over various intellectual property claims. The backdrop is a general mobile platform war between the two companies. Google provides its Linux-based Android mobile operating system to device manufacturers royalty free, but without legal indemnity. In reaction, Microsoft has claimed various patent infringements by those companies using Android.

Microsoft still has a long way to go to catch up to Android, which predominates as the No. 1 most used mobile OS. Android constituted 52.4 of the U.S. mobile smartphone OS market vs. three percent of the market for Microsoft's Windows Phone, according to May comScore measurements. Although Microsoft has been unsuccessful in making inroads with Windows Phone, the company has been quite successful on the legal front. Only Motorola and Barnes & Noble have offered any legal resistance to Microsoft's patent infringement legal claims.

About the Author

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

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