Ina Fried

Recent Posts by Ina Fried

With Motorola in Google’s Hands, Microsoft Eyes Possibility of Patent Deal

Microsoft and Motorola have been suing each other practically everywhere but in Judge Judy’s courtroom, but could a deal be possible now that Google’s purchase of the phone maker is complete?

The folks in Redmond are certainly hoping that is the case. Microsoft has reached deals with many others in the Android landscape, including Samsung, HTC and Barnes and Noble, as well as many contract manufacturers.

And Microsoft would certainly like to add Motorola to that list. Sources familiar with the company’s thinking tell AllThingsD that the company would be very open to meeting with Motorola’s new owners to discuss some sort of arrangement.

Right now, a great deal of uncertainty exists, not to mention mounting legal bills. Both sides have claimed particular victories in individual cases, with current battles looming over cellular standards, whether the Xbox infringes on Motorola know-how and with regard to Microsoft patents on synchronization technology, among other issues.

Beyond monetary concerns, the high-stakes legal battle currently under way means that both sides risk injunctions on shipping their products should the other be successful in a particular patent injunction.

The two sides were said to have been reasonably close to a deal last year, with one source saying things reached a “very advanced stage” last summer. However, things fell apart and there has been little progress in recent months as the Google deal wound its way through the approval process.

Google is believed to also be open to a deal, but the two sides appear very far apart in the kind of deal they envision. Sources close to Microsoft say the company is interested only in the kind of deal that would see the balance of licensing revenue headed in its direction.

Microsoft takes heart from several recent rulings in its many cases, including a ruling in Seattle preventing an injunction against it from taking effect as well as the finding that Motorola Android products infringe on Microsoft technology.

Even in one where the ruling went against it–the International Trade Commission case involving the Xbox, Microsoft said it was heartened by some of the language used by the administrative law judge in the case.

There a judge ruled that Microsoft did infringe on four of five patents, but also scolded Motorola for some of its practices regarding standard-essential patents. The European Union has also said it will investigate Motorola’s conduct with regards to patents that are part of technology standards, following complaints from Apple and Microsoft.

For its part, Google is said to be looking for more of an even cross-licensing deal where both companies basically just agree to stop suing each other.

And while Microsoft has reached royalty-bearing deals with some Android phone makers, those close to Google note that many of those are companies that also sell Windows Phones, such as HTC and Samsung, or firms otherwise partnered with the software maker, such as Barnes & Noble.

Motorola and Microsoft haven’t always been at legal loggerheads. Motorola, in fact, had a license to Microsoft patents but let the deal lapse several years ago. The two were also onetime partners for Windows Phone, though the company has been Android-only for several years and seems to be even more solidly in that camp now that Google is signing its checks.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work