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Microsoft cries foul over patent abuse

Microsoft has fired a shot at Motorola Mobility, and by extension Google, in the ongoing patent war consuming the tech industry, claiming the company is failing to license its technology under FRAND terms (Fair, Reasonable And Non Discriminatory).


In a scathing blog post, Microsoft vice president & deputy general counsel Dave Heiner accuses Motorola Mobility of refusing to fairly license its patents for online video and wi-fi, breaking a promise that was made when the patents were incorporated in industry standards.


"Motorola has refused to make its [online video & wi-fi] patents available at anything remotely close to a reasonable price,” Heiner says.


"Microsoft is certainly prepared to pay a fair and reasonable price for use of others’ intellectual property. Within just the past few years, Microsoft has entered into more than a thousand patent licenses. We know how it’s done.”


Specifically, Heiner says for a US$1000 laptop, Motorola is demanding a royalty of US$22.50 for 50 patents on the video standard H.264. For its own patents under the same standard, Microsoft charges a royalty of two US cents.


"And that is for a mid-level, $1000 laptop,” Heiner says.


"For a $2000 laptop, Motorola is demanding double the royalty – $45. Windows is the same on both laptops, and so is the video support in Windows. But the high-end laptop will have a bigger hard drive, more memory, perhaps a titanium case – and Motorola is demanding a hefty royalty on all of this, even though none of these features implements Motorola’s video patents.”


Microsoft has taken the dispute up with the European Commission, but has opted to go public as well in an apparent effort to win hearts and minds before the purchase of Motorola Mobility by Google is signed off, something that’s expected to happen very soon.


Commentators have drawn attention to Microsoft’s questionable record for licensing its patents to Android manufacturers. However, Heiner says the difference is that Microsoft never agreed to have those patents adopted as industry standards.


"Microsoft is not seeking to block Android manufacturers from shipping products on the basis of standard essential patents. Rather, Microsoft is focused on infringement of patents that it has not contributed to any industry standard.


"And Microsoft is making its patents – standard essential and otherwise – available to all Android manufacturers on fair and reasonable terms.”


Do you think Microsoft calling out Motorola Mobility is a case of the pot calling the kettle black? Post your comments below.


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