US judge lets Microsoft continue to sell products with disputed patents

The judge wants the licensing dispute to be settled in his court, where it was first filed

A U.S. judge has declined to lift an unusual order that prevents Motorola Mobility from enforcing a ban in Germany on the sale of Microsoft's Windows 7 OS and XBox 360.

The federal judge in Seattle said Monday he could revisit his order that the German ruling not be enforced if circumstances change, representatives from Microsoft and Motorola said.

Judge James Robart, who is overseeing the dispute in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, had ordered Motorola not to enforce any injunction awarded in Germany before he had ruled on the underlying patent issues. Robart said the German ruling, if enforced, would improperly affect the negotiations between the companies.

The judge said his court should be the one to decide the issue because it is where the first suit in the patent dispute was filed.

Microsoft's deputy general counsel, David Howard, said he was "pleased the temporary restraining order remains in place pending the further ruling from the court."

The case relates mainly to patents Motorola holds on video display technologies. Some of the technologies make up part of the H.264 video codec standard. Patented materials that become part of industry standards are required to be licensed under terms that are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND). Microsoft argues that Motorola's terms -- it takes 2.25 percent of the final price of each device sold -- are not reasonable. Motorola has fired back that, by suing, Microsoft has breeched its licensing terms and freed Motorola of any obligation to license the patents to Microsoft.

Microsoft said that in the Monday hearing, it asked Judge Robart to offer summary judgment on whether Motorola had breached its agreement with the standards committee to offer patented technologies that are part of industry standards on FRAND terms. Motorola, in turn, said it asked him to determine whether Microsoft had relinquished its rights to a FRAND licensing agreement by bringing suit against Motorola.

Robart's ruling is expected in the next couple of weeks. If he declines to offer summary judgment, the issues will be addressed in a jury trial set to begin Nov. 19.

Cameron Scott covers search, web services and privacy for The IDG News Service. Follow Cameron on Twitter at CScott_IDG.

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Cameron Scott

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