Professor Jorge Contreras cited in Politico
Motorola is on a patent winning streak this week as it moves a step closer to blocking iPads, iPhones and Xboxes that it says are infringing its patents — but regulators are watching.
A preliminary ruling by an International Trade Commission administrative law judge found Tuesday that Apple violated one of four Motorola patents related to Wi-Fi in iPad and iPhone. On Monday, another ITC judge found Microsoft’s Xbox violated four Motorola patents with its video compression and wireless technologies.
Both findings will be reviewed by the entire ITC panel, which could rule to block imports of the popular devices. But the cases are being eyed by the Justice Department, which in approving Google’s acquisition of Motorola earlier this year indicated that it would monitor the use of standards patents to block the sale of rival products.
“This is definitely in Motorola’s favor,” said George Contreras, a law professor at American University’s Washington College of Law, in an interview.
The rulings are significant because they involve some patents that have been adopted by standards-setting bodies as essential to an industry.
Motorola — which is still waiting for the Google deal to close — faces antitrust scrutiny in Europe on how it handles standards essential patents. Microsoft and Apple have argued that Motorola has not been willing to license these patents at a fair and reasonable rate. The Wi-Fi patent is a standards patent, as are some of the Xbox patents.
U.S. regulators are watching these latest cases at the ITC, a source told POLITICO.
Earlier this month, Microsoft obtained a restraining order to prevent Motorola from enforcing a possible upcoming injunction in Germany that could affect sales of the Xbox.
“I would think that Apple would be preparing similar arguments,” Contreras said. “It is in a similar position in its litigation with Motorola.”
In terms of the ITC’s ruling, Microsoft said the ruling “is the first step in the process leading to the commission’s final ruling. We remain confident the commission will ultimately rule in Microsoft’s favor in this case and that Motorola will be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms.”
But Motorola said it, too, is confident of its position. “Microsoft continues to infringe Motorola Mobility’s patent portfolio,” said a representative. “This case was filed in response to Microsoft’s litigate-first patent attack strategy, and we look forward to the full commission’s ruling in August.”
In addition, Motorola cheered the ITC’s Wi-Fi ruling. “We are pleased that the ALJ’s initial determination finds Apple to be in violation of Motorola Mobility’s intellectual property and look forward to the full commission’s ruling in August,” said a representative.
But Apple put a positive spin on the ruling. “We’re glad the court ruled in our favor on three of four patents being considered,” said an Apple spokeswoman. “The fourth covers industry-standard technology which Motorola has refused to license to Apple on reasonable terms. A court in Germany has already ruled that Apple did not infringe on this patent, so we believe we will have a very strong case on appeal.”