Los Angeles – The phone wars continue. A recent preliminary ruling by a U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) trade panel judge found that Motorola Mobility infringed on Microsoft U.S. Patent 6,370,566. The patent encompasses methods to synchronize group calendars and schedule meetings on a smartphone. The feature provides an essential organizational function for business users who need to schedule meetings without physically being in the office.
The judge, Theodore Essex, found no violation of six other patents owned by Microsoft. The software company filed the initial complaint in October 2010. The full commission will review and make a final determination on the decision in April 20, 2012. The commission will also review a request to prevent phones that infringe on the patent from being sold in the United States.
If the commission confirms the initial ruling, Microsoft will be in a strong position to stop unlicensed companies from making or importing phones with Android operating systems, and phones with similar features. The handsets in violation include Motorola’s Backflip, Devour, Droid 2, Droid X, and Cliq XT, along with their supporting software.
Microsoft may use the ruling as part of a strategy to obtain licensing fees from Android-based mobile producers. It is seen as a setback for Google, its Android operating system, and Android handset producers. On the other hand, a spokesperson for Motorola expressed relief that only one patent had been infringed upon. At the very least this decision should provide clarity about the contours of Microsoft’s 566 patent to prevent infringement in the future.
Microsoft also has law suits against Motorola for wireless networking and video technologies for up to 30 different patents. Motorola has its own suits against Microsoft for technology underlying the software giant’s key products such as the Xbox game console, Windows Phone 7, Windows Live Messaging, Windows 7, and Bing.
Microsoft already collects licensing fees from Samsung and HTC for allegedly infringing technology used in Google’s operating system. By October, it had gotten licensing agreements from over half of all Android device companies, but not Motorola Mobility. Microsoft has chosen to target manufacturers rather than Google. The European Patent Office did not uphold this same patent because it was found to be “obvious.” Microsoft is appealing the decision.