ITC Sides With Microsoft Over Patent; Motorola Android Phones Could Be Banned

from the we-protect-patents-by-blocking-cool-products? dept

It’s a difficult time to be making an Android phone, it appears. Just days after customs started blocking various HTC phones based on an ITC injunction due to some Apple patents, the ITC has also ruled in favor of Microsoft in a patent dispute with Motorola over Android phones. While there will be appeals and other such things, if this stands, and there is no settlement, Motorola’s phones could also be blocked at the border by ITC injunction. Motorola, for its part, noted that Microsoft filed with the ITC over nine patents, and the ITC has only said that the phones violate one patent. Of course, since the ITC has only injunctive relief, it doesn’t seem to much matter if it’s one, two, six or nine — the phone can be blocked. I am, once again, at a loss as to how this does any good. Keeping competing products from entering the market seems like the opposite of how you encourage innovation.

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Companies: apple, htc, microsoft, motorola

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Comments on “ITC Sides With Microsoft Over Patent; Motorola Android Phones Could Be Banned”

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51 Comments
Craig (profile) says:

Competition and innovation

Mike,
When you said “…Keeping competing products from entering the market seems like the opposite of how you encourage innovation.” you were joking, right? You of all people know that corporations are legally bound to maximize profits for shareholders. If this is what is required to do that, then it must happen.

The only way to start to fix this world is to legally re-define the role and responsibilities of a corporate entity.

Good luck with that one, right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Suing is business and business is booming.

Lawyers are like midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels in that what they represent is vastly misunderstood, resulting in misplaced hate. Midichlorians are microscopic beings that are attracted to Force energies. They have nothing to do with the “creation” of the Force and a person does not become more powerful because they have more midichlorians. Rather, because they feed on Force energies, they are an accurate way to measure the strength of the Force energies present in a person.

Lawyers are the same. They themselves do not create problems within the law (unless they become politicians but that’s another animal). Rather, since they feed off of bad laws, the number of lawyers dedicated to a specific area of the law is a reasonable measure of how broken those laws are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Suing is business and business is booming.

So far as I’m aware, what it would take is either crashing another galaxy into it (causing a “starburst event” and requiring several million years and more money than God) or dropping a few large stars into the central black hole (30,000 years to get there; 30,000 more years for the radiation blast from it entering a Seyfert phase to get back out to here in the boonies). So you’ll forgive me if I’m not quaking in my boots. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anonymous Coward says:

If it’s a bunch of software patents, perhaps HTC and Motorola should ship the phones here blank, without any software on them — that way there’s nothing infringing crossing the border that ITC would be empowered to block. Once the phones were here, they’d be flashed with a copy of the software at the distribution center just before shipping to stores. Microsoft would have to prove infringement in a real court, before an actual judge and jury, to do anything to block them then.

Doug says:

Don't shoot the messenger

I agree that this is ridiculous. However, as mentioned above, corporations are kind of bound to do this — they’re more or less forced by law to maximize their return on investment. As long as the law is set up in a way that rewards this behavior, we can’t blame Microsoft, Apple, and Motorola for playing hardball. It’s the logical and inevitable consequence of the current legal environment. While anybody with a good understanding of the situation knows that the only way to win is not to play, that option is unfortunately not available (see earlier Techdirt article, “Patent Judges Completely Out Of Touch…”, “You can’t just opt out”).

Don’t blame Microsoft. Fix the rules. Blame Congress. Or actually, I suppose we could apply the same logic and see that Congressional behavior is also the logical outcome of the rules we’ve set up for running Congress. So perhaps the answer is that I need to blame myself (and the rest of the American public) for letting Congress get to where it is today.

Ok, now we know who to blame. Any solutions?

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

When did common sense matter?

The church didn’t teach that; Aristotle did. The church ended up picking up on it when a lot of Greek philosophy was merged into Christianity.

That may seem like a minor difference, but it’s important to keep in mind. Geocentrism was never an official Christian doctrine, and the people who led humanity *out* of over a thousand years of Aristotelian darkness by developing the principles of science, from Grosseteste and Bacon down to Newton and Pasteur, were Christians, every last one of them, and were invariably motivated more strongly by the principles of Christian faith than even by an interest in science itself. ( http://www.ldolphin.org/bumbulis )

So it’s hardly as cut-and-dried as “the Catholic Church was holding back progress by teaching bad science as doctrine.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't shoot the messenger

The mantra “corporations are required to maximize profits for their shareholders” is a useful misconception.

Since really, this is something they say when doing so furthers their agenda, not necessarily always! Don’t corporations donate to charity and make political contributions? I think it would be hard to prove that each of these actions resulted (sure some might have) in more profit for the shareholders, yet it is a regular practice. And golden parachutes for executives. Do these really increase shareholder value? What about new headquarters, private jets, in-house chefs and Christmas parties?

Corporations have a fiduciary responsibility to maximize profits just as congress must authorize war.

Only if it fits the agenda.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't shoot the messenger

Donating to charity gives them tax breaks, and is a good PR move.

Donating to political campaigns helps get politicians on their side so they can get laws passed that make it easier for them to maximize profits.

Incentives and bonuses help them secure key people in the Corporation and keep them from moving to competitors.

Corporations are a sociopath/psychopathic entity that only cares about one thing, making as much profit as it can and everything it does in one way or another leads towards that one singular goal.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re:

These two have their hands so firmly wrapped around each other’s throats that neither can breathe. If it’s not about this it’s about video standards or Wi-Fi or something else.

It’s not that I’m the least bit concerned about what they do to each other it’s what the patent war between the pair of them may do for the rest of us. Rather TO the rest of us.

This ruling only applies to Motorola handsets and not Android handsets from other makers so Androd will continue to fly of the shelves while MS sill lags far, far behind every other major player in the smart phone field.

TtfnJohn (profile) says:

Re:

The main question is what good does this do for any of us, including Motorola and MS. Add that to the best of my knowledge no one in a position to do so (which isn’t the ITC) has ruled on the validity of MS’s patent. At this point who knows?

Like a large number of software patents, perhaps the majority of them, MS’s could be meaningless and invalid.

Motorola paid license fees for using the patent in question for a long time which doesn’t look good on them but, like many others perhaps they recognized that the patent system in the USA is such a mess it’s cheaper to pay the license fee than to challenge the validity of a patent.

Longer term is will mean that patents and patent law are held in the same level of disregard or contempt that copyrights and copyright law are now. While I see the theoretical usefulness of both copyright and patent law in practice they’re fast becoming welfare and retirement schemes for lawyers, companies that refuse to adapt to the real world around them or by those who, used to wining every time out in the past, can’t buy a win now. (I’m looking at you Microsoft.)

Surely this is the kind of behaviour that the framers of the US Constitution had in mind when they included copyright and patent right? Surely the free market exists now for large companies who have never really had to compete in an open market or who are still insisting it’s the 1980’s.

Anonymous Coward says:

Don't shoot the messenger

Tax breaks for charity are not $1 for $1, and they never increase profits!

Not every political donation gets laws passed or politicians on your side. There are probably very few instances that they do, although they usually get more attention than ones that don’t. Love to see some statistics on how donations turn into profits. I assume most donations do not directly impact profits. Although the misconception would like you to believe they did.

Incentives and bonuses sure do secure and keep people. But this does not always lead to higher profits! Overpaid people and misplaced incentives do not increase profit. They have the opposite effect.

Ever hear of a B Corporation?

In summary, although corporations are often driven by profit, it is incorrect to say that every decision made is done so to increase the bottom line. They are run by people afterall, who are often rather stupid, and don’t know how to really profit, let alone better the world.

Greevar (profile) says:

Money is food for fools

That’s the problem with corporations, they are externalizing machines. They do their best to pass off the costs and consequences of doing business on others so that they don’t have to deal with it themselves. Neither corporation can figure out an internal solution to their problem, so they seek an external solution through removing the competition with the assumption that without any competition, they will get all of the business. This line of thought is inherently flawed, because it doesn’t matter that you have no competitors if nobody wants your product, despite the total lack of alternatives. So they proceed to blame the competitors for their misfortune and find as many litigious vectors as they can to block competition. When in truth, if they just made their own products better (i.e. innovate), they would be on much better footing and they wouldn’t need to find anything actionable against the competitors.

Craig (profile) says:

Don't shoot the messenger

A corporation does not exist to better the world or destroy the world. It exists to maximize profits for shareholders. It is irrelevant who runs the companies – if they suck at making profits, they are booted.

They are indeed run by fallible people – but that does not change the fact that profits for shareholders are what they work for. If it happens to make the world a better place, well great. However, history documents well the excesses of corporate entities and how the single-minded purpose of profit for the sake of profit has been significantly more detrimental to our world.

The bottom line is that the bottom line is the most important part of a company with shareholders. Only some cursory research and reading will bring you up to speed. I have no idea what a ‘B’ Corporation is. I’m assuming it’s an American corporation with a specific set of rights and responsibilities. In rhetorically asking that, you basically reinforce the idea that there are specific obligations held by various flavours of corporate entities. For-profit companies exist for, wait for it, profits! This does not make them evil, but it does give them an out when it comes to being a good citizen of the world.

Anonymous Coward says:

microsoft has a similar attitude to the entertainment industries. if their product/service is not as good as someone elses, do whatever it takes to get the product service stopped, blocked, banned and if that fails start suing. to me, all this actually does is make the worse of the products worse still and the company one to be avoided as much as possible.

anon says:

Shareholders

Apple/microsoft have blocked samsung phones now attempting the block of android, the most popular bit of software in the world at the moment , well if they seriously want to bring the fight out into the public they are doing a very bad job of encouraging anyone to support there actions, and in fact might just be destroying the Apple brand name by giving Apple the big bully in the market position. And we all know people just love to destroy a bully and have a lot of fun doing it.

Ninja (profile) says:

Re:

Your comment is so clueless and in so many ways I’m having trouble where to start.

First, you must be from the MAFIAA, they are the ones that make the usual theft analogy with intangible goods. Copied, maybe, stolen?

I’m not very well informed about the nature of these patents but it could something silly like Apple vs Samsung in Europe. It’s about how 90? angles have 90? but the corner can be rounded so if their corner uses the same radius then it’s infringing. No shit. My brain just melted trying to explain how ridiculous it is.

And it could be the fact that some stuff are just standard, you CAN’T do it the other way. I’m an engineer so I’ll go with an engineering analogy. Let us take thermodynamics. Every single machine out there follows thermodynamics laws. No exception. Now, imagine if mr Brayton decided to patent the cycle that takes his name today. Every. Single. Gas. Turbine. And unfortunately the US are granting this type of patent nowadays for the software industry.

While my comment may be somewhat messy, the general idea is that it’s not as simple as you imply.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Suing is business and business is booming.

They themselves do not create problems within the law

No, they find them, exploit them and work to enhance them.

I will defend the profession to an extent. The profession is essential to any society that is governed by rule of law and at root it is a noble one. There are many lawyers who behave in that spirit.

There are also many lawyers who are effectively sociopathic, viewing law as nothing but a game without regard to impact on people, society, or even the law itself.

Lawyers are not neutral actors like midichlorians, simply attracted to law. They are more like blood cells in the law’s vascular system. When lawyers engage in evil acts, they aren’t just unwilling victims with no other choice. They are choosing to use their knowledge to cause injustice.

So it’s wrong to condemn all lawyers, but it’s very right to condemn lawyers who work toward harmful ends.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

When did common sense matter?

Mason Wheeler is right.

The Catholic Church, for all its myriad historical faults, did in fact produce a lot of what was, in that time and place, cutting-edge science. It also preserved a lot of science that would have been lost through the dark ages. They even developed and preserved knowledge that was at odds with their dogma.

Catholicism was far from perfect on this, but it’s too much of an oversimplification to say that Catholicism == Anti-science.

And what about the fact that the Catholic Church tried Galileo by inquisition and found him guilty of heresy for his theory of heliocentrism?

It didn’t really go down like that. Galileo didn’t get in trouble for heliocentrism as such. The idea wasn’t new to the church, and it wasn’t allergic to the line of thinking.

He got in trouble because he was making political statements about the church that the church didn’t care for. And, according to some historians, because he was a bit of an asshole.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Don't shoot the messenger

There is a huge amount of misunderstanding about all of this.

There is no legal requirement to “maximize profits” that comes with being a corporation. “Fiduciary responsibility” does not mean “always increase profit” either.

A corporation is defined by its charter. The charter lays out what the purpose of the corporation is, and a rough plan for how the corporation will operate.

This can mean “maximize profit no matter what,” but not always, and usually it doesn’t really require that at all.

The board of directors is required to act in good faith for the shareholders, in accordance with the corporate charter. The shareholders agreed to the charter when they bought the shares. Again, “acting in good faith” may or may not mean “maximize profits,” depending.

Likewise, “fiduciary responsibility” is really just a fancy word for “being honest.” A for-profit company could completely satisfy its fiduciary responsibility and give away every asset it has to stray cats at the same time, so long as they disclosed their intent to do so and followed the procedures that allow shareholders to exert their authority.

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