German court rules Microsoft infringed Motorola patents

A court ruled yesterday that Microsoft infringed Motorola Mobility’s patents and ordered Microsoft to remove its Xbox 360 consoles and Windows 7 operating system software from the German market.

Judge Holger Kircher said in a court in Mannheim, Microsoft breached an agreement with Motorola — which is in the process of being bought by Google — in using certain video-compression software in products including Windows 7 and Xbox.

The Mannheim case is related to the larger smartphone patent war being fought by Apple, Microsoft and mobile phone makers who use Google’s Android software such as Samsung.

Last week a judge for the US International Trade Commission also said Microsoft infringed Motorola Mobility’s patents for technology in the Xbox’s wireless internet connection and video compression.

Technology companies have invested billions in buying up patent portfolios they can use defensively or offensively against rivals and spent more litigating in the US and Europe.

Yesterday’s ruling is expected to have little impact for Microsoft’s European operations. It is already moving its European software distribution centre to the Netherlands from Germany in anticipation of adverse judgments in the patent trial.

“Motorola is prohibited from acting on [yesterday’s] decision, and our business in Germany will continue as usual while we appeal this decision and pursue the fundamental issue of Motorola’s broken promise,” said Microsoft in a response to the ruling.

So far, the US software maker’s distribution has been handled out of Germany by Bertelsmann’s services unit Arvato.

Google’s Android software, which the company lets handset makers like Motorola Mobility use for free, has become the world’s most widely used smartphone operating system, ahead of Apple’s iOS software, comScore data released in January showed. Microsoft was third.

Germany has in recent months become a major battleground in the global patent war between makers of mobile phones, tablet computers and their operating software. German courts, among others, forced Korea’s Samsung Electronics to stop selling its Galaxy 10.1 tablet in the country and told Apple to de-activate “push” notification features for some customers in Germany.


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