Google’s Patent Battle With Microsoft & Apple Escalates

Google logo (Robert Scoble Flickr)Microsoft has filed a formal complaint against Motorola with the European Commission (EC) over what it sees as a clear abuse of its industry standard patents, with Google’s tacit backing. This follows a similar filing by Apple demanding EC intervention.

Microsoft Files EC Complaint; Google Responds

Dave Heiner, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel for its antitrust group, outlined Microsoft’s concerns with Motorola’s stance on industry standard patent use in a detailed blog post.

“Motorola has broken its promise. Motorola is on a path to use standard essential patents to kill video on the web [in reference to the H.264 standard], and Google as its new owner doesn’t seem to be willing to change course,” he said.

Heiner added that while competition officials had approved Google’s purchase of Motorola, their stern warnings to the firms over any abuse of standard patents clearly indicates the industry is concerned by these developments.

“At the urging of competition law officials, Microsoft recently announced that it will not seek injunctions against other firms’ products on the basis of standard essential products (and has never done so). Apple and Cisco made similar statements. Unfortunately, Google refused,” he said. “Not surprisingly, the European Commission does not seem to be satisfied. We know other companies in the industry share our concerns. Last week, Apple filed its own complaint against Motorola with the European Commission.”

Heiner also gave some details on the costs that Motorola is demanding, explaining it is going far beyond those requested by itself and others in the industry.

“For a $1,000 laptop, Motorola is demanding that Microsoft pay a royalty of $22.50 for its 50 patents on the video standard, H.264. As it turns out, there are at least 2,300 other patents needed to implement this standard,” he said. “They are available from a group of 29 companies that came together to offer their H.264 patents to the industry on FRAND [fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory] terms. Microsoft’s patent royalty to this group on that $1,000 laptop? Two cents.”

Microsoft also pre-empted any criticisms from Google that it has undertaken similar action against Android manufacturers, claiming that its licensing deals have only been implemented for non-industry standard patents.

“Microsoft is not seeking to block Android manufacturers from shipping products on the basis of standard essential patents,” Heiner said. “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.”

The scathing comments are yet another escalation in the growing feud between Microsoft and Google as the two companies clash on numerous issues.

Search Engine Watch contacted Google, who offered a response to Microsoft’s complaint.

“We haven’t seen Microsoft’s complaint, but it’s consistent with the way they use the regulatory process to attack competitors,” a Google spokesperson said. “It’s particularly ironic, given their track record in this area and collaboration with patent trolls.”

Microsoft was also on the attack yesterday, releasing a new video via Google-owned YouTube called “Googlighting” that mocks Google for selling “productivity software on the side” (a.k.a., Google Apps).

Apple Demands EC Intervention

Apple has called on the European Commission to intervene in its ongoing patent dispute with Motorola and bring the curtain down on a punishing series of legal spats that has seen products from both firms under threat of a sales ban.

Apple’s request came to light in a regulatory filing made by Motorola. It states that Apple has asked for the EC’s intervention as it is concerned Motorola is abusing the licensing of patents under FRAND agreements.

“On February 17, the company received a letter from the European Commission, Competition Directorate-General, notifying it that the Commission has received a complaint against Motorola Mobility by Apple regarding the enforcement of [Motorola’s] standards-essential patents against Apple allegedly in breach of [Motorola’s] FRAND commitments,” it reads. “Apple’s complaint seeks the Commission’s intervention with respect to standards-essential patents.”

Motorola said in a statement that, “Motorola Mobility has had a long-standing practice of licensing our patents under FRAND and we offered those to Apple.”

The two firms have been embroiled in several high-profile disputes, particularly in Germany, which led to Apple facing a possible ban on its iPhone and iPad products in the run up to Christmas, and Motorola facing a similar ban after losing a key patent dispute last week. Google’s decision to continue Motorola Mobility’s 2.25 percent royalty demand on sales of iPads and iPhones that use Motorola’s technology also raised some eybrows last week.

European and U.S. regulators approved the $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola by Google, although warned the firms that they would be watching closely for any perceived abuse of FRAND patents.

This article contains reporting by Dan Worth of, and Danny Goodwin and Miranda Miller of Search Engine Watch.

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