The countersuit is a standard legal maneuver for patent infringement law suits. It is common enough that it is no longer a matter of if, but when, a tech organization challenged for patent infringement will respond with a patent suit of its own. True to form, and following the standard operating procedure, Motorola has filed three patent countersuits against Microsoft.
Florian Mueller, a software developer and government affairs professional who vigorously advocates that there should not be any software patents, has a detailed analysis of the legal wrangling between Microsoft and Motorola on his blog -- FOSS Patents.
Mueller says, "Motorola Mobility, a subsidiary of Motorola, filed a total of three suits against Microsoft: one complaint (over 7 patents) with the US District Courts for the Southern District of Florida (where it previously sued Apple over 6 patents) and two complaints (one over 3 patents and another over 6 patents) with the Western District of Wisconsin (where Apple sued Motorola over 6 patents, including one that it previously asserted against HTC before the US District Court for the District of Delaware)."
He goes on to explain, "Motorola Mobility now claims that "Microsoft's PC and Server software, Windows mobile software and Xbox products" infringe those 16 patents. Motorola says in the press release that the patents relate to technologies in the fields of operating systems, video codecs, email, instant messaging, object-oriented software architectures, Wi-Fi, and graphical passwords."
Three of the complaints asserted against Microsoft are the same as complaints cited in Motorola's legal battle with Apple as well. US Patent 6,272,333 (method and apparatus in a wireless communication system for controlling a delivery of data), US Patent 5,311,516 (paging system using message fragmentation to redistribute traffic), and US Patent 5,319,726 (method and apparatus for providing cryptographic protection of a data stream in a communication system) are all allegedly being infringed both by Microsoft and Apple.
Mueller notes, "One thing that's important to consider when looking at all of the suits and countersuits is that the quantities of patents asserted are a factor of limited importance. What really matters is whether those patents are chosen from a strong portfolio (strong in terms of breadth and depth), whether they are valid, and whether they are actually infringed (and if so, whether a defendant could, should the need arise, easily work around them or just drop some functionality that customers won't miss)."
I have to say I agree with Mueller's underlying crusade. The nature of technology patents -- especially software patents -- seems to be that the patents are so vague that it's virtually impossible for them not to overlap each other. Tech companies like Microsoft, Motorola, and Apple are in an arms race for the biggest patent portfolio -- and not for the innovation that should come with it, but as a legal strong arm tactic that has emerged as a fundamental cost of doing business in the world of technology.