More patent infringement claims abound with Microsoft bringing action against Motorola, the manufacturer of several Android based smartphones (Droid 2). Motorola had only recently launched it’s new suite of smartphones such as Bravo, Defy, Droid Pro, Flipside and Spice, oriented towards the budget conscious consumer. Whilst Motorola formerly made phones that were based on Microsoft windows operating system it switched to Google’s Android operating system.
Curiously Microsoft initiated their patent action against Motorola only a week prior to their launch of the Windows Phone 7. Microsoft filed their patent infringement action against Motorola in relation to the Android technology, seeking some suggest a hometown decision for a declaratory judgement in the U.S. District Court in Seattle Washington. Microsoft also filed an action with the International Trade Commission asking for an order to preclude the importation of infringing smartphones into the United States.
Microsoft’s claim asserts infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola’s Android smartphones. The nature of the patent infringement alleged is extremely broad ranging pertaining to a wide range of smartphone functionality common to all smartphones, such as synch email, calenders and contacts, meeting scheduling features in addition to notifying applications of adjustments to signal strength and batter power. There seems to be a lack of specificity in the drafting of the infringement claims in terms of what the nature of the infringing activity is.
Major players in the smartphone industry appear to be getting very concerned about protecting their technology.
This year has witnessed the staging of a series of patent disputes. It was only earlier this year that Apple sued Android Google via HTC in respect of alleged infringement of no less than 20 patents relating to the iPhone user interface and underlying hardware and architecture. Apple and Nokia have sued each other over smartphone software patents, Motorola have sued Apple and Oracle brought patent proceedings against Google claiming it developed it’s Android phone by directly using Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property.
The litigation being pursued by Microsoft is almost identical in nature to that brought against HTC by Apple earlier this year mentioned above. It tried to forestall Android from using iPhone features and get rid of any competitive advantage between the phones’ operating systems and user experiences.
The real source of discontent by both Apple and Microsoft and their actual target appears to be Google’s free open source Android system software, although the legal assaults have been mounted against the hardware or handset manufacturer which is merely using Google’s technology. The claims in the suit canvass a broad range of software functionality. In fact Oracle is the only company to have brought suit against Google possibly because pursuing Motorola may be a an easier option. However suing the hardware manufacturers is convenient as they are the ones who are reaping huge profits from the sale of the Android.
One of the dilemnas in bringing software related patent infringement suits is that there is it is difficult to establish whether there is any original code left in these systems and therefore proving a violation.
Microsoft isn’t perceived as a serious contender in the smartphone market compared to other companies, yet there is an obvious benefit in protracting proceedings over patent claims among smartphone OEMs and OS makers. Could this be a tactical ploy to delay the delivery of Motorola products?
Sales of Android phones and products have surpassed those of iPhones globally and the market will see the the number of android applications surpass those available in the iPhone App store very soon. There are a number of phone manufacturers, big and small, supporting it which would have meant that the handsets would have been cheaper as well.