Microsoft scores patent win over Motorola Android phones

Microsoft has won a bit of a victory in its patent infringement suit against Motorola, with an administrative law judge at the U.S. International Trade Commission ruling that Motorola Android phones violated one of seven Microsoft patents. The patent in question covers synchronizing calendars and scheduling events on a mobile device, and is part of Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology. However, the administrative judge’s ruling also leaves six of Microsoft’s patent infringement claims out in the cold, meaning Microsoft gets to chalk up a win—but just barely.

Both sides were upbeat about the decision, with Microsoft asserting the ruling validates the company’s claims and its controversial Android licensing program, which currently has more than half of Android device makers paying royalties to Microsoft. Motorola’s refusal to pay license fees to Microsoft for Android devices was one of the precipitating factors in the suit.

“As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward,” said Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard, in a statement.

Motorola spun the decision as a victory for its claims, noting the ruling cleared Motorola from infringing on six of seven claims.

“We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favorable,” said Motorola Mobility senior VP and general counsel Scott Offer, in a statement. “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 U.S. market.”

The ruling is preliminary, with a final ruling from the full six-member ITC panel not expected to come down until April 20, 2012, after which there’s another 60-day review period where Motorola could take its case directly to President Obama. Even if the infringement claim holds up, the delay before the final ruling gives Motorola Mobility plenty of time to retool its Android devices to avoid infringement claims and keep its devices on sale on the United States. Markets outside the U.S. won’t be affected by the ruling either way.

Motorola is also suing Microsoft for patent infringement in several markets, including claims against Exchange, Outlook, Messenger, Bing maps, Wi-Fi, video encoding, and graphical password technologies used in the Xbox 360. Those claims have yet to be adjudicated.

Google is in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility, ostensibly to bring Motorola’s patent portfolio on board and protect Android from first patent infringement claims.

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