June 8, 2012
FTC Stands Up To The ITC, Says Enough Is Enough
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com
Apple has not once, but thrice sought to ban HTC handsets from landing on American soil. They´ve also famously tried to block Samsung phones and tablets from being sold in America, Australia and Germany as well. Before we paint Apple in too dim a light, Google is also in the midst of a bid to block imports of Microsoft´s Xbox and Apple´s iPhone based on patents owned by their new acquisition, Motorola Mobility. One government entity has finally had enough of this corporation-on-corporation whining and is trying to put a stop to it all.
According to Bloomberg, the FTC has filed their own complaint in the form of a letter with the ITC, saying companies should be limited in their abilities to block rival companies from selling their products over small patents which are now a part of industry standards.
"Simply put, we are concerned that a patentee can make a RAND [reasonable and nondiscriminatory] commitment as part of the standard setting process, and then seek an exclusion order for infringement of the RAND-encumbered SEP [standard essential patent] as a way of securing royalties that may be inconsistent with that RAND commitment," writes the FTC in their letter.
For example, Apple is on its third attempt to block HTC, saying the way Android and HTC turn numbers into actionable items (such as text messages and URL addresses) is covered under Apple´s patents.
Motorola is doing the same thing, citing standard essential patents in an attempt to persuade the ITC to stop allowing all Apple and Microsoft devices made in Asia from entering the states.
"Hold-up and the threat of hold-up can deter innovation by increasing costs and uncertainty for other industry participants, including those engaged in inventive activity. It can also distort investment and harm consumers by breaking the connection between the value of an invention and its reward -- a connection that is the cornerstone of the patent system," writes the FTC.
Each of these 3 companies in particular are busy pointing their fingers at each other, even as they are busy seeking injunctions for one another.
Microsoft is accusing Motorola Mobility of seeking “excessive royalties” for patents used in games for the Xbox gaming console. Last month, an ITC judge recommended the Xbox 360 S–Microsoft´s latest version of the Xbox– be banned from import into the States. This recommendation, however, is still subject to a review by the rest of the trade commission. A decision about this complaint is expected this August.
While Motorola was pushing to block Microsoft devices, the ITC found they were in violation of Microsoft patents which create and schedule meetings on mobile devices. The ITC recommended a ban against these phones.
Apple, too, was found to violate a Motorola Mobility patent just as they were trying to protect one of their patents from the same company.
A spokesperson for Motorola said in an emailed statement to CNET, “Motorola Mobility would welcome having Apple and Microsoft join the more than 50 other companies who have entered into licenses and cross-licenses on a FRAND rate for Motorola's portfolio, which includes a number of foundational communications patents.”
“To date, however, neither party has been willing to enter into a cross-license on reasonable terms and thus we all find ourselves in seemingly endless litigation."