Nokia receives preliminary ITC ruling against HTC, may lead to a US import ban

One of the many legal battles involving smartphone manufacturers is Nokia suing HTC over several patent infringements. Nokia filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC) claiming HTC encroached on several patents with their Android based devices. 

Through the course of the litigation several of the claims were dropped leaving three patent claims to be ruled on. An Administrative Law Judge with the ITC has issued a preliminary ruling against HTC on two of the three remaining patent claims which very well could lead to a U.S. import ban against HTC.

Microsoft News Roundup - Motorola getting banned, Office 2013 has apps and Nokia stock is a go

Although news on or about Windows Phone may be slow coming out today there’s still plenty going on in the tech world that’s tied to Microsoft with some residual effects for our favorite mobile OS. Instead of spamming our own site with tangential news, we figured we would just summarize in a digest. Cool?

Today’s new stories that we've found interesting are the following—

  • Motorola import ban for violating Microsoft’s patent goes into effect tomorrow
  • Office 2013 has an app store + hidden Metro site
  • Forbes Online says Nokia stock is worth holding on to

So head past the break to catch up on some of these interesting stories making the rounds today...

Microsoft prevails in patent complaint

Amongst all the recent patent litigation, Microsoft filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission claiming that Motorola violated six of their smartphone patents. An Administrative Judge has ruled in favor of Microsoft in one of these complaints and dismissed the other five. Both sides have proclaimed victory.

The patent in question deals with generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device and involves the Motorola Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq XT, Devour and Backflip. The ruling could be seen as a victory for either side.  Motorola skated on the majority of the claims but won't get off scot free.  Motorola faces importation bans and will either have to develop/tweak the technology to avoid the infringement or pay licensing fees to Microsoft.  Still, Motorola is seeing the glass half full.  Motorola's Senior VP and General Counsel stated,

""We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favorable to Motorola Mobility. The ALJ’s initial determination may provide clarity on the definition of the Microsoft 566 patent for which a violation was found and will help us avoid infringement of this patent in the US market."

In a similar statement from Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel David Howard, Microsoft claims victory in winning one of six complaints by stating,

“We are pleased with the ITC’s initial determination finding Motorola violated four claims of a Microsoft patent. As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward.”

So what does all this mean? The Administrative Judge's ruling is the first step in resolving things. The ruling will now go to the full ITC Commission, who will likely support it, and an appropriate action will be determined that may include a ban on importing the devices in question. The ITC's final ruling is then subject to a sixty day review by President Obama.

The ITC final ruling is expected by April 20, 2012. 

source: tgdaily, allthingsd

Judge rules that Microsoft's Android Expert can testify

As we know, just about everyone in the smartphone industry is suing everyone else. Microsoft is suing Motorola (which has been bought by Google) over patent issues involving Motorola's Android phones. Google stepped in last week and filed a motion to block Microsoft's Android Expert, Mr. Robert Stevenson, from testifying. Google asserted the claim that Microsoft violated confidentiality agreements and disclosed source codes to Mr. Stevenson.  Source codes on an operating system everyone thought was open sourced.

The U.S. International Trade Commission Judge handed down his ruling on Google's motion and Google got the short end of the stick.  However, the ruling may have opened the door for more litigation.

Judge Theodore Essex denied the motion stating that only parties in a complaint are allowed to move for sanctions. The Judge wrote,

"Google has not set forth any legal support for the proposition that a non-party may move for sanctions."

So the expert witness can testify and the wheels of justice can continue to grind.  Still there are two things to watch with this case.

First, will Google file a seperate claim against Microsoft so they can become a "party" and seek sanctions against Microsoft?

Second, if it is ruled that Motorola has infringed on Microsoft patents and Google's Android hardware partners have to pay royalties to Microsoft, would the $12.5 billion deal have been a bust?

source: Computerworld

Google accuses Microsoft of revealing "highly confidential" Android source code. What?

Google doesn't seem to want to get along at all with Microsoft these days. We had the issue about the patent sale that Google took to the Court of Public Opinion.  Now they are taking issue with Microsoft in another Court.  Google is asking a US International Trade Commission Judge to bar a Microsoft expert witness from testifying in Microsoft's lawsuit against Motorola.

If you have lost track of who's suing who or complaining on whom, Microsoft is currently suing Motorola in an attempt to force them to pay royalties for patents Microsoft owns that are related to technology used in Android mobile operating systems.

In the motion to block the expert witness testimony, Google claims Microsoft violated a confidentiality agreement between Microsoft, Google, and Motorola when Microsoft shared "highly confidential source codes" with its expert witness. Google's motion states in part,

“The protective order governing confidentiality in this investigation explicitly requires that Microsoft disclose to Google any consultant or expert seeking access to Google confidential business information or highly confidential source code before [Google's emphasis] allowing a consultant or expert to review such information so that Google has an opportunity to object prior to disclosure.”

The sixteen page motion asks the Judge to prohibit the expert witness from testifying and require Microsoft to provide Google with a declaration, under oath, that no additional consultants or experts were permitted access to the confidential information.

Microsoft has until August 15th to respond to Google's motion. Wouldn't it be a hoot if Microsoft produced an email from Google voicing no objection to disclosing this information?  We also must ask how confidential can source code be when the Android system is supposedly open source?

Source: Yahoo News

Apple's patent battle against HTC causing OEMs to reconsider Windows Phone

An initial ruling against HTC by the US International Trade Commission (ITC) is evidently starting to have ripple effects. The case was brought by Apple, who is accusing HTC of infringing upon 10 patents of which the ITC found HTC to be violating two. Two caveats: the ITC's ruling is preliminary and not final but, Apple just needs to win on one patent infringement claim to potentially halt imports by HTC into the U.S. [Read Nilay Patel's excellent piece at ThisIsMyNext]

The patents in question seem specifically tied to the Android OS and other firms seem to be taking notice. According to 21st Century Business Herald, based in China:

"Some of these vendors worry about the risk of becoming embroiled in patent infringement due to adoption of Android, and have drawn up three strategies to cope with potential impact. The three strategies are enhancement of support to Microsoft Mango operating system, promotion of smartphone customization by mobile telecom carriers for protection through binding common interest (especially carriers partnering with Apple and Microsoft), self-development of own operating systems, the source pointed out. China-based smartphone vendors Huawei Device and ZTE have planned to adopt Mango, the source indicated."

That's a very interesting paragraph. For one, Huawei is not yet a key partner of Microsoft for Windows Phone--so that's potentially new (even though it will matter more for Eastern markets). Second, we're evidently starting to see OEMs start to make contingency plans if these lawsuits continue to go forward. The reason why is because Google does not offer any protection against claims of patent infringement, contra Microsoft who will defend the OS in court to the chagrin of the OEMs. Combined with those continued licensing fees for Android and the speculation of further legal threats, Windows Phone is starting to look ike a good choice right about now.

Source: Digitimes/21st Century Business Herald; via Electronista

Sony's turn at patent litigation

Sony is the latest company to file patent complaints and litigation accusing LG Electronics of patent infringement. Sony has filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission claiming LG's phones and modems violate several proprietary technologies including photo-based caller ID.

And, as what's become a traditional companion to filing an ITC complaint, Sony has also filed a lawsuit against LG in U.S. District Court with similar claims.  The only thing missing is a counter suit by LG against Sony.  But it's early and there's not telling what will be filed tomorrow.

In it's complaint to the ITC Sony has requested that LG Electronics be barred from importing products with the contested technologies. This would include the LG Quantum. It is doubtful, with this form of litigation taking forever to be resolved, that Quantum supplies will dry up any time soon.

Source: Bloomberg Thanks goes out to Mike for the tip!