A judge in U.S. District Court in Seattle has issued an injunction preventing Motorola from enforcing an injunction it has not yet won in Germany. The court in Mannheim will determine next Tuesday whether Motorola will be granted an injunction preventing Microsoft from selling products that allegedly infringe on patents owned by Motorola relating to H.264 video encoding. Infringing technology includes the Xbox 360, Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer, and Windows 7 – basically anything that Microsoft makes that plays video from the internet.
Under patent laws in both the U.S. and Europe, companies that hold “essential” patents – i.e., patents that are crucial to the functioning of a particular kind of technology or industry – are obligated to license those patents to competitors on “Fair, Reasonable, and Non-Discriminatory” (FRAND) terms. Microsoft took Motorola to court in Seattle in November of 2010 for refusal to license its essential patents on FRAND terms. Motorola filed suit against Microsoft in Germany shortly thereafter for infringement of those same patents.
As Florian Mueller of FOSS Patents points out, the German court system has been extremely friendly to holders of essential patents, often granting injunctions in spite of concerns about FRAND licensing. Thus, when the Mannheim court convenes on Tuesday, it’s a pretty safe bet that Motorola will be granted the injunction they’re seeking blocking the sale of infringing Microsoft products. Yesterday’s ruling in Seattle will prevent Motorola from enforcing that injunction until the U.S. case can be decided. According to Mueller, the original goal of the U.S. case was “to enforce Motorola’s FRAND licensing promises with worldwide effect.”
Microsoft tweeted a statement about the ruling yesterday:
“Motorola promised to make its patents available to Microsoft and other companies on fair and reasonable terms….”
“Today’s ruling means Motorola can’t prevent Microsoft from selling products…”
“…until the court decides whether Motorola has lived up to its promise.” — David Howard, Microsoft Deputy General Counsel
The U.S. case is set to go to trial in November of this year.