John Paczkowski

Recent Posts by John Paczkowski

How Will Motorola Mobility Avoid ITC Smartphone Ban?

Motorola Mobility isn’t too worried about the U.S. International Trade Commission import ban on many of its mobile devices, which begins Wednesday. The company says it has developed a workaround for the infringed Microsoft patent for which the ban was granted, and claims its products will remain on the market.

“Motorola has taken proactive measures to ensure that our industry-leading smartphones remain available to consumers in the U.S.,” Motorola said in a statement to AllThingsD. “We respect the value of intellectual property and expect other companies to do the same.”

Motorola, now a unit of Google, declined to provide further detail on those measures. But it’s not difficult to deduce what they might be.

In order to win clearance for its products from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Motorola must be able to guarantee that there is no continuing infringement under the ITC’s interpretation of the Microsoft ActiveSync patent that’s cause for the ban. That patent describes an ActiveSync feature which allows calendar meeting requests to be generated by a smartphone and synced across other devices via ActiveSync-enabled servers. And there are two ways of getting around it: 1) replace it with a non-infringing alternative that provides the same functionarly; 2) Remove it outright.

Now, as best I can tell, there isn’t really a way to provide the functionality that ActiveSync enables without infringing Microsoft’s patent. That’s why Apple, Google, Nokia and others license it. And that’s why Motorola licensed it until its contract expired in 2007. In other words, Option No. 1 is a nonstarter.

Which leaves Option 2: Remove the feature entirely, leaving 18 Motorola devices without the ability to schedule a meeting from their calendars. Sadly for Motorola and its users, that’s the most likely scenario here. Not a workaround so much as a defeaturing.

That’s lousy recourse, but unless Motorola is willing to roll over and pay Microsoft the licensing fees it’s seeking, that’s where it’s at.

Microsoft, for its part, would like Motorola to know that its representatives are standing by to take its order, should it opt to go that route.

“Microsoft brought this case only after Motorola stopped licensing our intellectual property but continued to use our inventions in its products,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Dave Howard said in a statement given to AllThingsD. “It’s unfortunate we’ve been forced to pursue legal action, but the solution for Motorola remains licensing our intellectual property at market rates as most other Android manufacturers have already done.”


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