Microsoft Sues Motorola Over Smartphones

By Caroline Dobson
Caroline Dobson
Caroline Dobson
October 4, 2010 Updated: October 1, 2015

In this file photo, a Motorola Droid smartphone handset is seen earlier this year. Software giant Microsoft is suing Motorola on patent infringement related to e-mail and synchronization. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
In this file photo, a Motorola Droid smartphone handset is seen earlier this year. Software giant Microsoft is suing Motorola on patent infringement related to e-mail and synchronization. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)
The world’s largest software company, Microsoft Corp., is launching legal action against Motorola, Inc. over its Android smartphones, which have become popular and competitive in the mobile phone market.

The key grievance Microsoft is claiming is patent infringement on synchronization of e-mail, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and the capacity of signal strength, and battery power notifications. Microsoft has gone through the U.S. International Commission in Washington whereby the banning of U.S. imports of the phones could occur if Motorola is proven to be culpable. Also, there has been a case filed with the federal court in Seattle, in which the software giant is attempting to sue for an undisclosed amount of compensation.

“There’s a lot of patent lawsuits between handset vendors, and Motorola and Microsoft just add to the many already ongoing,” said Tavis McCourt, an analyst with Morgan Keegan & Co. in Nashville, Tenn. “It’s a new industry and it’s very unclear who owns the technologies; the products are moving faster than the intellectual property,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg.

Microsoft is a software provider that charges handset producers to install Windows operations systems, whereas Google provides its version of software—Android—for free.

The timing of the lawsuit comes days before Microsoft is about to launch its own new version of mobile software, Windows Phone 7, in an attempt to gain back some of its market share relative to the dominance of Apple, Inc.’s iPhone and Android devices.

According to Reuters, a Motorola spokeswoman said the company has not yet received a copy of the suit but based on its strong intellectual property portfolio, plans to "vigorously defend itself."

Google said it was disappointed in Microsoft's tactics, "While we are not a party to this lawsuit, we stand behind the Android platform and the partners who have helped us to develop it," the company said in an e-mailed statement.

Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel in charge of Microsoft's intellectual property, said, “Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices," in a blog post on the company's website.

"Judging by the recent actions by Apple and Oracle, we are not alone in this respect."

Patent disputes in the mobile phone industry have become prevalent. Apple sued HTC, the Taiwanese handset maker, claiming patent infringement in its Android phones. Oracle recently sued Google, alleging that Android illegitimately included elements of its Java software.