Motorola wins round at ITC in Xbox patents dispute

The initial determination is subject to a review by the full commission in August

The U.S. International Trade Commission has ruled that Microsoft infringed on patents of Motorola Mobility in its Xbox games console.

Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) David P. Shaw in an initial determination ruled that Microsoft infringed four patents of Motorola Mobility, though he sided with Microsoft on a fifth.

Under ITC procedure, the initial determination is subject to a review by the full commission by August.

An investigation against Microsoft was instituted in December, 2010, based on a complaint filed by Motorola Mobility and General Instruments on Nov. 22, 2010.

A win by Motorola could lead to Microsoft having to license the patents or face a sales ban in the U.S. for the gaming console.

The patents in the complaint are in the area of video encoding and decoding, security, and communications technologies, and include U.S. patent numbers 5,319,712; 5,357,571; 6,069,896; 6,980,596; and 7,162,094, which can be viewed by searching the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website.

The dispute between Microsoft and Motorola before the ITC is just one of many between tech companies before the commission and in courts in many countries over alleged patent infringement. A number of companies are shoring up their patent portfolio by buying patents, to avoid lawsuits and to use the patents as a bargaining counter. Facebook said Monday it had agreed to buy a portion of the patents Microsoft recently acquired from AOL, after acquiring 750 patents from IBM last month.

Microsoft argued before the ITC that some of the patents claimed were incorporated in industry standards, and hence had to be licensed under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms (RAND).

It had asked the ITC for a extension in the initial determination and target date as it held that some of the issues before the commission relating to Motorola's RAND commitments are being ruled on by a federal court in Washington. An extension would allow the ALJ to take into account the ruling while arriving at his decision.

In its motion Motorola said it is presumptuous to conclude that Microsoft will prevail on the RAND issues to be heard by the federal court in Washington, and to presume that the ITC is incapable of dealing with these same issues, to the extent they were presented to it as part of the evidence and briefing in the investigation. RAND licenses are often used for technologies that help promote a standard.

Even a ruling that Motorola has breached its RAND obligations would not result in Microsoft being licensed to any of the patents at issue in the investigation, Motorola said. By an earlier motion, Microsoft continues to deny that the 802.11 and H.264 patents at issue in the investigation are valid and infringed, it said in a filing early April.

Judge Shaw said in his initial determination that Microsoft had "not prevailed on any equitable or RAND defense."

Both companies could not be immediately reached for comment.

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