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Microsoft in Patent Dispute with Motorola

Written by Ben Evans on 12 November 2010

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Computing behemoth Microsoft is involved with yet more patent litigation.

Microsoft is suing Motorola in the US having alleged that the company broke promises by not licensing some of its patents at reasonable rates, naturally Motorola have issued a counterclaim that Microsoft is in fact infringing its patents.

In order to allow for progression of technology and fair competition technology standards are agreed by competing companies so that their devices will work with each other and with other technology, of course more often than not this will include patents. As part of this process patent owners make promises not to enforce their patents against the other companies in return for reasonable licence payments, these are FRAND (fair, reasoinable and non-discriminatory) commitments. Microsoft is claiming that Motorola is in breach of this agreement: "These standards are now implemented worldwide in a variety of electronic devices that have become commonplace. Microsoft invested substantial resources in developing and marketing products in compliance with these standards, relying on the assurances of participating patent holders – including Motorola – that any patents asserted to be 'essential' by such patent holders would be available for licensing on such terms, regardless of whether such patents were, in fact, used in any particular implementatio,".

The claim went further: "Motorola broke its promise to IEEE-SA and its members and affiliates by refusing to offer to Microsoft a license that is consistent with Clause 6 of IEEE-SA Standards Board Bylaws, instead demanding royalties that are excessive and discriminatory...Motorola broke its promise to ITU and its members and affiliates by refusing to offer to Microsoft a license that is consistent with the Common Patent Policy of the ITU, instead demanding royalties that are excessive and discriminatory."

"It is unfortunate that Microsoft has chosen the litigation path rather than entering into comprehensive licensing negotiations, as Motorola has mutually beneficial licensing relationships with the great majority of technology companies industry-wide," said a statement from Motorola.

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