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Motorola wins initial ruling in Xbox patent spat

U.S. International Trade Commission judge finds that Microsoft infringed on some of Motorola's patents with its gaming console.

Motorola Mobility has won a patent ruling in its attempt to block Microsoft from importing Xbox game consoles.

U.S. International Trade Commission Judge David Shaw found today that Microsoft was infringing on some of Motorola's patent rights, according to a Bloomberg report. The entire six-member trade commission, which has the power to block imports found to infringe on U.S. patents, is expected to review the decision and issue a statement in August.

Motorola welcomed news of the ruling.

"We are pleased that the [administrative law judge]'s initial determination finds Microsoft to be in violation of Motorola Mobility's intellectual property. Microsoft continues to infringe Motorola Mobility's patent portfolio, and we remain confident in our position," a spokesperson said in a statement. "This case was filed in response to Microsoft's litigate-first patent attack strategy, and we look forward to the full commission's ruling in August."

Meanwhile, Microsoft said in a statement that it was confident it would prevail in the matter.

"Today's recommendation by the administrative law judge is the first step in the process leading to the commission's final ruling," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "We remain confident the commission will ultimately rule in Microsoft's favor in this case and that Motorola will be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms."

The ruling is just the latest episode in a patent battle between the two companies stemming back to November 2010 when Microsoft sued Motorola over wireless and video coding patents it used in the Xbox and its smartphones. Microsoft claimed that Motorola is charging excessive royalties for licensing on those patents. Motorola retaliated with its own countersuit, claiming infringement of 16 of its patents by Microsoft's PC and server software, Windows Mobile and Xbox products.

Microsoft has criticized Motorola's desire to sue companies over the H.264 patent, which, as an industry standard, must be offered on FRAND (fair, reasonable, and nondiscriminatory) basis.

A U.S. district court judge last month granted Microsoft an injunction and temporary restraining order that prevented Motorola from blocking imports of Microsoft in Germany until U.S. courts have made a decision about whether Motorola is failing to offer licenses for its H.264 video patent at a reasonable rate.

Technology companies have increasingly used the ITC to settle their differences over the past few years. The process is quicker than a traditional district court, and holds the threat of a ban on the importation of devices or products.

A Motorola win could result in an exclusion order that would have barred Microsoft from importing and selling hardware and software that infringed on Motorola's patents. However no such ban has even been enforced on a technology company in the U.S.; the companies have always settled beforehand.