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Microsoft legal win over Google may signal ceasefire

A win by Microsoft means a potential ban in Germany, which could drive the two parties to the negotiating table.

Roger Cheng Former Executive Editor / Head of News
Roger Cheng (he/him/his) was the executive editor in charge of CNET News, managing everything from daily breaking news to in-depth investigative packages. Prior to this, he was on the telecommunications beat and wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal for nearly a decade and got his start writing and laying out pages at a local paper in Southern California. He's a devoted Trojan alum and thinks sleep is the perfect -- if unattainable -- hobby for a parent.
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Roger Cheng
2 min read

So much for the power of Motorola's patents.

gavel image

Google, which spent $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola and its patents in a deal that closed Tuesday, has suffered a major legal defeat at the hands of Microsoft, which successfully argued to a German court that Motorola has violated a patent related to text messaging.

The ruling means Microsoft can enforce a ban on Android products in Germany. But more importantly, it could signal an end to at least one long-running dispute between Microsoft and Android players. In the increasingly popular game of technology legal warfare, the side that gets to a significant ban first typically has the upper hand in negotiating a settlement.

"Google-Motorola will have to take a license, leave the German market, or face serious issues that affect app developers and users," Florian Mueller, a legal consultant who runs the blog Foss Patents, tweeted today.

Mueller has done legal consulting work for Microsoft.

A Motorola representative said in a statement that the company wants to review the written decision, which is expected to be released on June 1, and will review options afterward. That includes a possible appeal.

"This is one element of a global dispute initiated by Microsoft," the representative said.

Microsoft, meanwhile, was pleased with the result.

"We hope Motorola will be willing to join other Android device makers by taking a license to our patents," David Howard, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft, said in a statement.

While Apple may grab the headlines for its ongoing legal dispute with nearly all of the major Android vendors, Microsoft has slowly been suing or striking licensing deals. It already has a deal with companies such as HTC and Samsung Electronics.

A deal with Motorola and Google could be next. This win is more significant for Microsoft because it's a blow to Google itself, which authors the Android platform for all partners, even if the lawsuit specifically targeted Motorola.

Microsoft won a similar ban on Android devices in the U.S., but Motorola won a ban against Xbox 360s here as well. Given the complicated web of potential product bans, a settlement has to be something both sides are weighing heavily.

Updated at 8:20 a.m. PT: to include the disclosure that Mueller has done work with Microsoft.