If you’re in the US and you own a Motorola Mobility Android device, congratulations: You have a genuine endangered species in your hands. Microsoft has won a federal trade ruling that bans the import of such devices until Motorola either alters the software so that it no longer infringes on Microsoft-owned patents, or else purchase a license from Microsoft to continue selling the devices.
Today’s ruling by the US International Trade Commission follows a December court ruling that Motorola’s Atrix, Droid and Xoom devices infringed a parent owned by Microsoft related to Exchange ActiveSync technology. The official order today that prohibits “the unlicensed entry for consumption of mobile devices, associated software and components thereof covered by claims 1, 2, 5, or 6 of the United States Patent No. 6,370,566 and that are manufactured abroad by or on behalf of, or imported by or on behalf of, Motorola” will, according to the ITC, specifically impact the company’s impact Droid 2, Droid X, i1, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip, Charm and Clip models.
Responding to the ruling, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel David Howard told BusinessWeek that his company “hope[s] that now Motorola will be willing to join the vast majority of Android device makers selling phones in the U.S. by taking a license to our patents.” Motorola Mobility is currently the only major Android device maker who does not currently have a patent licensing deal with Microsoft following last month’s settlement with Barnes & Noble, and according to a Microsoft estimate, the company’s licenses cover over 70 percent of all Android devices in the US.
Somewhat surreally, this decision comes after another ITC judge ruled that Microsoft is infringing on four Motorola Mobility patents, with Motorola also winning a sales ban on Windows 7 PCs and the Xbox 360 in Germany on patent infringement grounds. Microsoft is appealing both decisions.
Jennifer Erickson, a spokesperson for Motorola, released a statement saying that “Although we are disappointed by the Commission’s ruling that certain Motorola Mobility products violated one patent… Motorola Mobility will not experience any impact in the near term, as the Commission’s ruling is subject to a $0.33/per unit bond during the 60 day Presidential review period.”
Today’s ruling is not final; there is a 60 day waiting period during which it must be reviewed by President Barack Obama, who can chose to overturn it on public policy ground, and Motorola has already announced that it is considering appealing the decision.