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Microsoft?s lawsuit against Motorola unlikely to kill Droid devices: attorney

Microsoft Corp.'s patent infringement action against Motorola Inc. is part of its ongoing battle against Google?s Android operating system, but experts doubt it will affect the growing number of Droid users.

Mobile device manufacturers have been suing each other a lot lately to facilitate negotiation for cross-licensing. Very few cases result in one company being forced to shut down, but in most cases litigation provides the catalyst that drives the eventual settlement. 

?I agree that it's a new industry and it's very unclear who owns the technologies,? said Harris Wolin, partner in the intellectual property firm Myers Wolin LLC, Morristown, NJ.

?The products are moving faster than the intellectual property, particularly since there is a large backlog of pending applications in the U.S. Patent and Trade Office in areas that are developing and being commercialized much quicker than that might be covered by pending Internet Protocol,? he said.

?Emerging, high-profile technologies will always have its share of patent feuds, and in most cases a business decision will drive the economic outcome, whether such outcome includes a license from one party to the other or a cross-license between the parties.?

One of the most notorious situations was Research In Motion?s court battle with NTP Inc. over patents.

Under the terms of the settlement of the BlackBerry patent dispute with NTP, RIM agreed to pay NTP $612.5 million in a ?full and final settlement of all claims.?

In a statement, RIM said that ?all terms of the agreement have been finalized and the litigation against RIM has been dismissed by a court order this afternoon. The agreement eliminates the need for any further court proceedings or decisions relating to damages or injunctive relief.?

RIM was also sued by Visto for infringement of four patents. Visto also sued Microsoft.

On Jan. 22 of this year, Motorola requested that all BlackBerry smartphones be banned from being imported into the United States for infringing upon five of Motorola's patents. Its patents for "early-stage innovations," including user interface, power management and Wi-Fi, are in question.

Nokia and Apple have been embroiled in legal battles of their own (see story).

There are so many lawsuits flying around the industry, it is enough to make a mobile marketer's head spin.

RIM, for one, has managed to withstand the onslaught of litigation, and Motorola should be able to do the same.

?RIM is constantly embroiled in litigation, but such litigation has very little noticeable impact on the typical BlackBerry user,? Mr. Wolin said.

?I think it is fair to say at this point that patent litigation for mobile device manufacturers is simply a cost of doing business, and the mobile device industry as a whole is unlikely to be impacted too much by any one particular patent suit,? he said.

Microsoft?s take
While Motorola has so far been mum on the lawsuit, on Friday Microsoft issued the following statement from Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, Redmond, WA:

Microsoft filed an action today in the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola Inc. for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola?s Android-based smartphones.

The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola?s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.

We have a responsibility to our customers, partners and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market.

Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones.

Final Take
Dan Butcher, associate editor, Mobile Marketer