Android Handsets Hit By Microsoft ActiveSync Patent Ruling

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The International Trade Commission has determined that certain of Motorola’s Android handsets violate a Microsoft synchronisation patent

Technology giant Microsoft claimed victory this weekend as the International Trade Commission (ITC) issued its final determination in Microsoft’s Android infringement case against Motorola, ruling Motorola violated a Microsoft patent related to ActiveSync, a mobile data synchronisation technology and protocol developed by Microsoft, originally released in 1996.

The technology is licensed to a number of mobile device companies, including Apple for iOS.

Eight handsets affected

The ruling affects eight individual Motorola Mobility handsets which run Google’s Android operating system, including the popular Droid 2 and Droid X smartphones, as well as the Backflip, Charm, Clip, Devour, i1 and Cliq XT.

“Microsoft started its ITC investigation asserting nine patents against Motorola Mobility,” Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickso said in an emailed statement. “Although we are disappointed by the Commission’s ruling that certain Motorola Mobility products violated one patent, we look forward to reading the full opinion to understand its reasoning.”

A Bloomberg article reported that Motorola Mobility could appeal the ruling or cut a licensing deal with Microsoft in order to avoid altering the software on its phones. The company is currently being acquired by Google for $12.5 billion (£8bn), a move that would give Google a hardware arm, as well as inheriting a broad array of wireless technology patents that could provide useful cover against its rivals’ legal assault on Android.

“These cases usually end up with the parties settling,” Charlie Wolf, an analyst with Needham & Co in New York, told the news service. “I would expect Motorola to get together with Microsoft to resolve this.”

Two-year investigation

According to the ITC filing, the Commission instituted the investigation on 5 November, 2010, based on a complaint filed by Microsoft titled In the Matter of Certain Mobile Devices, Associated Software and Components Thereof, 337-744.

The final ruling was delivered to President Obama as well as the US Trade Representative, where Obama has the decision to either support or override the decision, based on public policy grounds.

“Microsoft sued Motorola in the ITC only after Motorola chose to refuse Microsoft’s efforts to renew a patent licence for well over a year. We’re pleased the full Commission agreed that Motorola has infringed Microsoft’s intellectual property, and we hope that now Motorola will be willing to join the vast majority of Android device makers selling phones in the US by taking a licence to our patents,” David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in an emailed statement.

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