Court upholds Motorola import ban in dispute with Microsoft

Motorola Mobility had argued that a Microsoft patent was invalid to avoid an ITC ban

An appeals court has ruled against a Motorola Mobility bid to declare invalid a Microsoft patent that figures in an import ban by the U.S. International Trade Commission on certain Motorola mobile phones.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit on Monday also upheld an ITC decision that Microsoft satisfied the domestic industry requirement with regard to the patent, which is important for the ITC to decide on an import ban.

Motorola had asked the appeals court to declare certain asserted claims of the patent invalid and reverse the finding that there is a domestic industry that could be hurt by its infringing products.

U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566 ('566 patent), owned by Microsoft, is titled "generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device."

Microsoft filed a complaint in the ITC in October 2010 against Motorola in which it alleged that the import and sale of certain Motorola mobile devices infringed nine Microsoft patents, including the '566 patent.

The ITC decided in May to impose a limited exclusion order on imports of Motorola products, which are in infringement of certain claims of the '566 patent. Motorola, which initially contested infringement during the ITC investigation, had later argued that the Apple Newton MessagePad, a prior art personal digital assistant, included a claimed synchronization component. But the ITC did not find "clear and convincing evidence of any synchronization component in the Apple Newton MessagePad," the court observed.

In July, Microsoft sued the U.S Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, claiming that the agencies were not enforcing the ban from the ITC. The Redmond, Washington, software company holds that Android uses a number of its technologies and has offered a number of companies license agreements providing coverage under its patent portfolio for Android mobile phones and tablets. Motorola has, however, not signed the agreement.

"We're disappointed with this decision but pleased with the overall outcome," the Google unit said in a statement. "Microsoft lost on 8 of its 'best' patents, and this lone opinion does not impact our ability to build great products that people love." The two companies have patent disputes in various courts.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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