Google just can’t win. A U.S. court just ruled that their Motorola Mobility subsidary won’t be able to enforce a German injunction that would’ve kept Microsoft from distributing Windows 7, Xbox 360, Internet Explorer, or Windows Media Player in Germany.
The patent dispute, which has been going on since way back in 2010, centers on two patents (see FOSS Patents if you’re interested into the nitty gritty) held by Motorola, supposedly violated by Microsoft’s products:
• EP0538667 on an "adaptive motion compensation using a plurality of motion compensators" (filed in 1992)
• EP0615384 on an "adaptive compression of digital video data" (filed in 1994)
Basically, if you don’t have these patents, you can’t have H.264, the codec that the vast majority of digital videos use. Without getting too technical, it’s a pretty big deal that most tech devices can handle it. Motorola, however, decided that Microsoft needed to pay them around $4 billion a year just to play videos. That’s 4% of Microsoft’s yearly revenue, give or take a few billion.
Microsoft apparently made the right decision by going up against Motorola in Germany, though, despite the country’s patent system’s bad reputation. Brian Love, a professor at Santa Clara Law school, told Reuters that “To some extent Germany has a reputation as place you can go and get an injunction relatively easy.” If you take a look at earlier tech cases, you’ll start to get an idea why. It goes both ways, too. The German injunction would’ve kept Microsoft from "offering, marketing, using or importing or possessing.”
At any rate, a three-judge 9th Circuit court decided to uphold an earlier decision by Seattle’s U.S. District Judge, James Robart, to put Motorola’s injunction on hold until he could decide whether Motorola could really halt sales legally. This is possible since Microsoft is already suing Motorola in the US.
While Microsoft is no doubt happy about the ruling, it might not be the worst for Motorola. European regulators are looking into whether or not they over-charged Microsoft and Apple for their H.264 patents, and they could end up in even more hot water before it’s over.
Court Gavel Image by Shutterstock