Microsoft filed patent infringement complaints against Motorola and its Android phones in the International Trade Commission and U.S. federal court Friday, indicating that the software giant may hope to use its strong patent position as one way to set its mobile software apart from the competition.
Microsoft said that Motorola's Android phones infringe nine patents, including some that would appear to threaten most smartphone platforms. Android is the open source OS built by Microsoft rival Google.
The patents appear to include some related to Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync, which syncs e-mail, calendar and contacts between a mobile phone and a software-based computer program, according to a blog post written by Horacio Gutierrez, general counsel at Microsoft.
Other patents involve technology that displays signal strength and battery power on phones.
The suits shouldn't come as a surprise. Earlier this year, HTC announced it had licensed Microsoft patents relevant to its Android phones. The companies did not disclose what kinds of technologies the patents covered. At the time, Microsoft said it was in discussions with other phone makers using Android.
Motorola did not immediately reply to a request for comment about the suits.
The first phones running Microsoft's revamped mobile phone software are scheduled to appear this month. The company has said that one benefit of using its Windows Phone 7 software, compared to some of the free OSes like Android or Symbian, is that it has a broad patent portfolio and can protect handset makers from threats.
"Microsoft indemnifies its Windows Phone 7 licensees against patent infringement claims," the company said recently. "We stand behind our product, and step up to our responsibility to clear the necessary IP rights."