It was just three days ago that Apple’s ITC victory led to US Customs seizing shipments of HTC phones, including the HTC One X and Evo 4G LTE. Now Microsoft has a victory against Motorola related to a violation of a patent related to Activesync and making group meeting requests. Of course, hitting Motorola is a bit near the heart to Google. Before we get too deep in this, the way Microsoft is dealing with this is vastly different than what Apple is doing. Microsoft has already stated that they want Motorola to join the other Android manufacturers to license Microsoft patents. If Microsoft gets Moto to join then every Android manufacturer knows that if they don’t fall in line the ITC will drop the hammer on them so this is a big deal. However, Microsoft’s intent here is to get royalties for their patents. On the other hand, Apple is happy sitting on their injunction against HTC. They’re not looking for a royalty – they’re looking to keep their monopoly and force HTC and other Android manufacturers to work around Apple. Apple is happy to block these devices. Microsoft will block them if needed but they’re offering an alternative – you can work around the patent or license it.
Patents are intended to be shields. To protect intellectual rights. Microsoft is doing just that and protecting their rights and hopefully when this is sorted out the Moto phones can go through customs and get sold either modified or, more likely, with Microsoft getting a royalty for the patent that the ITC has found was infringed. Apple is wielding their patents as a sword to knock their competition out and they’re not giving alternatives.
I’m not in love with patent wars in any form but everyone has known that Google’s approach to Android was head first. There’s always been whispers about the patent disputes and what this means for manufacturers and developers and this is coming to a head now. Of course, Google isn’t a direct party to any of these suits and there’s no indication that they’re standing behind their product.
Will this end Android? No. It is time to pay for what’s been taken. But this is also far from over as Microsoft and Motorola have other claims against each other and Apple is in heated disputes with the world. My gut tells me that Moto and Microsoft enter into a cross licensing agreement because collectively they have a lot of patents and it’s not worth either company’s time to have these prolonged and expensive public spats. And in the short run, Motorola will likely put up a bond and sells these phones so there won’t be a sales impact here.