Google seeks tweak to Microsoft-Motorola patent case

Unhappy with the royalty rate set by a judge, the search giant argues that a jury should have determined the figure.

Don Reisinger
CNET contributor Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who has covered everything from HDTVs to computers to Flowbee Haircut Systems. Besides his work with CNET, Don's work has been featured in a variety of other publications including PC World and a host of Ziff-Davis publications.
Don Reisinger
2 min read

Microsoft and Google are still battling over patents previously owned by Motorola.

The strife between Microsoft and Google over Motorola Mobility patents is far from resolved.

Google on Wednesday asked the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals to set aside a patent rate established by a lower judge in its ongoing royalties case against Microsoft, according to Reuters, which obtained a copy of the document.

Google's attorneys said that US District Judge James Robart's decision in 2013 to assign a royalty rate of about $1.8 million per year on Motorola patents was too low and that a jury should have ultimately decided the rate, according to Reuters.

Google is asking the Circuit court to reverse the previous decision and allow for a jury trial to determine the proper patent rate on Motorola's intellectual property.

The trouble between the companies dates back to 2010 when Microsoft sued Motorola, arguing that the mobile firm's patent royalty rates were unfair. Microsoft, along with other prominent companies, including Apple, licenses patents from Motorola for their various products. Some of those patents Microsoft licenses from Motorola have been deemed standard-essential patents, which means the company owning them must offer them on a fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) basis under law. Microsoft, which uses some of those patents in its Xbox game console for video, said in its lawsuit in 2010 that Motorola's licensing rates were too high and that, under FRAND rules, should be much lower.

Microsoft won its case in 2013, when Robart said that the company should be forced to pay $1.8 million per year for royalties on the patents it uses. Motorola had demanded an amount 22 times higher: $4 billion per year.

Google found its way into the fight in 2011 after announcing it was acquiring Motorola Mobility. Google put its full weight behind the case, arguing that the royalty rates applied to the patents were fair. Under Google ownership, Motorola tried to overturn the Microsoft patent ruling, but that effort failed.

Interestingly, Motorola is no longer a party in the case. Last year, Google sold off Motorola Mobility to Lenovo for $2.9 billion. In the deal, however, Google kept Motorola's patents, including those involved in the Microsoft case.

According to Bloomberg, Google's efforts at changing the course of its fight may be futile. After hearing Google's request for a jury trial to determine a new patent royalty rate, Chief Judge Sidney Thomas said that it appeared both Microsoft and Motorola-Google had expected a judge to make a decision on the matter and at no time did the search giant seek a jury's involvement, according to Reuters.

The comment did not represent an official ruling, but may suggest how the court is leaning.

Neither Google nor Microsoft immediately responded to a request for comment.