Written by Matthew Harper.
Can’t these tech giants all just get along? If you’re keeping track of the insane number of lawsuits being thrown around over technology patents these days, go ahead and add another tally mark. Microsoft’s lawsuit against Motorola Mobility, who Google now controls, started roughly two years ago, but the trial finally began on Tuesday, the 13th.
Microsoft’s lawsuit against Google and Motorola Mobility has big stakes in the tech world because it involves royalty rates on vital patents. According to Microsoft, Google is overcharging for the patents that they control. In Microsoft’s estimations, the disputed patents (which involve the H.264 video codec and a specific wi-fi technology patent) are worth a little over a million bucks a year. Google, however, says the patents are worth a full four times that (BBC).
The case could have huge implications on many companies, as, in any piece of technology that is made and sold, there are generally multiple patents owned and licensed by other companies. If the courts side with Microsoft, it could lead to a string of other licensing fee costs over various patents being questioned. If Google wins, it could mean that the companies in charge of these patents could end up trying to charge whatever they want. When patents are so crucial in the technology world, price is very important. If the royalty fees get too high, some companies might no longer be able to afford to make the products they currently do.
Microsoft seems to be standing firm in their belief that Motorola is charging too much. According to PC World, Microsoft cites a theory known as the “stacking theory,” which basically implies that if every company wanted as much for their licensed patents as Motorola and Google do, those patents would simply be too expensive to use by anyone.
As the two sides continue to fight and have made no progress on a settlement, the trial should finally be able to set a price that is fair. Judge James Robart is going to be deciding on the royalty rate after hearing out both sides. Interestingly, the trial is split into two very different parts. Robart will decide a fair royalty rate in the first part. He will do this alone. The second part of the trial is where we might see some sparks fly, as a jury will, using Robart’s set royalty rate, come to a decision on whether or not Microsoft is being overcharged for the Motorola patents (PC World).
BBC News points out that Google was successfully able to impose a sales ban against many Microsoft products in Germany when this patent conflict continued to move forward without an agreement. Google is now wishing to seek a similar ban in the United States, but chances of that happening are low. In fact, most experts are expecting the royalty rate by the judge to be set closer to what Microsoft wants to pay than what Motorola wants to charge, which will hopefully finally bring an end to this two-year patent dispute.