By Khurram Aziz | Dec 03, 2012 04:16 PM EST
The U.S. District Court in Seattle has ruled that Motorola can't seek to ban Microsoft's Xbox 360 console based on patents which the Google-owned company has agreed to make available on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (FRAND) terms.
The ruling will impact other FRAND cases between Microsoft and Motorola at the US International Trade Commission (ITC) and in Germany.
Microsoft first sued Motorola in 2010, arguing that Google's Android operating system, used on Motorola's smartphones, infringe its software patents. Motorola then counter-sued, accusing Microsoft's Xbox of violating its own patents related to the H.264 video-streaming technology standard.
However, because Motorola's patents are considered standards-essential, Judge James Robart said the company can seek monetary damages but not an injunction against the sale of infringing devices.
"Motorola's obligation to grant such a FRAND licence to Microsoft far preceded the onset of this litigation, meaning that at all times during this litigation, the issue was not if, but when and under what terms, a licence agreement would be established between Microsoft and Motorola," said Robart. "Thus, because Motorola has always been required to grant Microsoft a FRAND licence agreement for its H.264 standard essential patents, as a matter of logic, the impending licence agreement will adequately remedy Motorola as a matter of law."
The dispute between the two companies is part of a much larger patent war going on between smartphone manufacturers in courts around the world which goes as far back as the launch of the first iPhone.
Microsoft, which came late to the smartphone market and struggled initially to compete. It began suing manufacturers using Android in 2010 and eventually managed to force licence agreements with almost all major smartphone companies including HTC, LG and Samsung.
Motorola, however, has held refused a deal, and in 2011, Google bought the company for $12.5bn in order to defend its Android partners.
The company filed its own suits against Microsoft in various courts, including Germany, where a judge in May granted an injunction against the sale of the Xbox console because it infringed FRAND patents.
However, Judge Robart told Motorola during the case in Seattle not to enforce the sales ban on the Xbox in Germany until the Seattle case had been resolved.