Microsoft wins Motorola Android US import ban

Microsoft has won an ITC ruling that will force Motorola to either modify the software on its Android phones, or face imports of handsets into the US being blocked. The victory, which saw Microsoft argue that Motorola had failed to properly license an ActiveSync related patent in its handsets, could still be struck down by President Obama within his review period, but if not will come into force in sixty days. Microsoft is hoping to pressure Motorola into joining the group of Android licensees which pay them patent royalties for devices based on Google's open-source platform.

"Microsoft sued Motorola in the ITC only after Motorola chose to refuse Microsoft's efforts to renew a patent license for well over a year" Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard said in a statement about the ruling. "We're pleased the full Commission agreed that Motorola has infringed Microsoft's intellectual property, and we hope that now Motorola will be willing to join the vast majority of Android device makers selling phones in the US by taking a license to our patents."

Whether that will actually take place will depend on Motorola's interpretation of the final ruling, something the company says that it hasn't had time yet to delve into. Its options are to remove or rework the implementation which the courts say infringe Microsoft's patent, or to stump up the cash.

"Microsoft started its ITC investigation asserting 9 patents against Motorola Mobility. Although we are disappointed by the Commission's ruling that certain Motorola Mobility products violated one patent, we look forward to reading the full opinion to understand its reasoning" Motorola said in a statement. "Motorola Mobility will not experience any impact in the near term, as the Commission's ruling is subject to a $0.33/per unit bond during the 60 day Presidential review period. We will explore all options including appeal."

The ITC's ruling [pdf link] does not specify the exact handsets at risk, but previous confirmed models included the Droid 2, Droid X, Cliq XT, Devour, Backflip and Charm. However, it's possible that other, more recent devices from Motorola's stable could also be at risk.