The International Trade Commission (ITC) put the kibosh on 18 Motorola androids in accordance with Microsoft’s claims that those 18 products contain software that infringes on their patent claims.
The patent in question involves Exchange Active Sync, the function your smart phone uses to help you coordinate meetings and schedules. Anyone who uses Microsoft’s particular iteration of that common software must pay Microsoft licensing fees.
Motorola happily paid those licensing fees for four years between 2003 and 2007. But five years ago, they decided that they just weren’t going to do that anymore.
It may have something to do with the fact that Motorola has several patent lawsuits against Microsoft for licensing fees they refuse to pay. As a matter of fact, as we speak, Motorola is trying to get a ban on the Xbox 360 which they say illegally uses their patents. It all really amounts to just more tit for tat in the endless patent battles that make up the modern Smartphone War.
“What’s Going to Happen?”
The ITC’s ban on Motorola products is really just a government-backed licensing fee demand from Microsoft. Neither the US government nor the US business sector wants to see Motorola gone from the picture. All they really want is for Motorola to back down and start respecting the patent.
For Motorola, backing down can mean a couple of things. They can shell out the dough to take out the offending technology or change it so that it doesn’t infringe on Microsoft’s patent. But that’s expensive, and it means that they’ll be releasing a slightly inferior product.
Motorola’s second option is to just start paying the licensing fee again like they’d been doing in the first place. That sounds like it makes the most sense, but for some reason, Motorola hasn’t done that.
The only thing they have done is release official platitudes about their respect for patents, like, “We respect the value of intellectual property and expect other companies to do the same.”
“What About My Motorola Fix?”
Motorola promises that consumers will still have access to their band products, but they refuse to say how or why, which is making everyone a little nervous.
Some analysts have speculated that the fact that they’re ignoring the issue suggests that they’ve already imported all of the devices they intend to distribute in the United States in anticipation of the deadline. We suspect that they’ll just release a software patch or pay the fee but who knows what will happen.
That’s great royalty-dodging on Motorola’s part but it may leave you in the lurch. The ban affects a considerable number of Motorola’s smartphones: the Motorola Atrix, Backflip, Bravo, Charm, Cliq, Cliq 2, Cliq XT, Defy, Devour, Droid 2, Droid 2 Global, Droid Pro, Droid X, Droid X2, Flipout, Flipside, Spice, Xoom and a few more. And if demand is higher than expected they could essentially run out.
Lucky for you, not too many people keep close tabs on patent laws. But it might be a good idea to go ahead and pick up your favorite Motorola now before it’s discontinued. Microsoft’s patent is valid until 2018.