Motorola smartphones banned in Germany following ruling on Microsoft patent

In the ongoing patent war between Android phone makers and, well, everyone else, Motorola has suffered a defeat in Germany. Over there, Microsoft effectively got a ban on Motorola smartphones. The ban isn’t self-executing, as it requires that Microsoft post a 10 million euro bond in order to enforce it. Though that’s probably going to happen.

The culprit is a patent related to FAT (File Allocation Table), and more specifically to a “common name space for long and short filenames”. Motorola has been found to be infringing this particular patent by the Mannheim Regional Court. Microsoft won multiple remedies, the injunction being just one. Additionally, there could be a recall of infringing products from retail, as well as damages to be paid (the amount is yet to be determined).

The same patent was used by Microsoft against Motorola at the US ITC, but there the ruling was favorable to Motorola. In Germany, Microsoft’s patent could still be invalidated, but the probability of that is less than 80% apparently. Had it been more than that, then Motorola would have been granted a stay of the injunction until proceedings which are evaluating whether the patent in question is valid or not will have finished.

Motorola will obviously appeal this, and it’s almost a given that it will ask the appeals court, the Karlsruhe Higher Regional Court, for a stay on the injunction. Further complicating things is the fact that Microsoft’s patent will expire in 2014, so if Motorola is somehow able to get a long enough stay, today’s ruling might not come into effect at all.

On the other hand, if this won’t be reversed (or stayed), Motorola will have to come up with a non-infringing solution pretty quick, if it doesn’t want its bottom line to be seriously affected. Germany is no small market, after all. The company could use another filesystem for its Android phones, but that would make connecting them to Windows PCs quite cumbersome.

Alternatively, Motorola could just pony up some cash and sign a patent licensing agreement with Microsoft. And pay that Microsoft Tax. Motorola is the only ‘big’ Android device maker that so far hasn’t done this. Samsung is paying Microsoft for every Android device it sells. HTC is too. And many others.

The fact that Motorola is now owned by Google may complicate such a solution though. Google may not want to appear to be ‘giving in’ to Microsoft and its tactics, so unlike Motorola’s competitors which decided it was easier (and probably cheaper) to just pay up and get on with their lives, Motorola may be entering into a ‘moral’ fight of sorts, on behalf of Google. We’ll have to see how or if that will negatively impact its sales across the world.

Via FOSS Patents

Author: Vlad Bobleanta

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