Microsoft files Motorola competition complaint in EU

News 22 Feb, 2012

Motorola is coming under fire for allegedly asserting FRAND patents in litigation against competitors.

Microsoft has lodged a competition complaint with the European Commission (EC), claiming Motorola is unfairly trying to block the Redmond giant’s products.

The complaint was detailed in a blog post entitled ‘Google: Please don’t kill video on the web,’ which claimed Motorola was trying to stop sales of Microsoft products by using patents that related to industry standards.

These patents should have been made available to others on fair, reasonable and nondiscriminatory (FRAND) terms, but Motorola has not done so and instead used the patents to go after others in court or charge hefty sums for use of them, Microsoft said.

I'm profoundly concerned about the new and growing phenomenon of ‘FRAND abuse tourism.’

“Motorola has broken its promise. Motorola is on a path to use standard essential patents to kill video on the Web, and Google as its new owner doesn’t seem to be willing to change course,” said Dave Heiner, vice president and deputy general counsel for the corporate standards and antitrust group at Microsoft.

“Unfortunately, Motorola has refused to make its patents available at anything remotely close to a reasonable price.”

Microsoft claimed that to use the 50 patents covering the video standard H.264 in a $1,000 laptop, Motorola was asking for a royalty of $22.50. Yet for the 2,300 or more patents related to using that standard, Microsoft would only have to pay two cents.

For a $2,000 laptop, Motorola is asking for double the royalty at $45, the Windows maker said.

“Google has a chance to make a change. For a company so publicly committed to protecting the Internet, one might expect them to join the growing consensus against using standard essential patents to block products,” Heiner added.

“Every firm that is willing to pay a fair royalty ought to be able to implement industry standards. Adherence to this basic point is essential to keeping computer costs down and preserving the Internet as an open, interoperable platform.”

Microsoft recently said it would not pursue litigation with competitors over “standard essential products.”

Last week, it emerged Apple had filed its own complaint against Motorola over the enforcement of standards-essential patents.

IP expert Florian Mueller said he could see where Apple and Microsoft were coming from.

“If every owner of standard-essential patents behaved like Motorola, this industry would be in chaos, and grind to a halt,” Mueller said in a blog post.

“I'm profoundly concerned about the new and growing phenomenon of ‘FRAND abuse tourism.’

“As a European citizen, I'm reasonably confident that the Commission will make those companies (and countless others who are watching these high-profile smartphone cases and harboring similar plans) realise that Europe is not a good destination for FRAND abuse tourism.”

Motorola said it had not yet received a copy of the complaint, but was "committed to vigorously defending its intellectual property."

Google was a little more pugnacious in its response. "We haven't seen Microsoft's complaint, but it's consistent with the way they use the regulatory process to attack competitors," a spokesperson said.

"It's particularly ironic, given their track record in this area and collaboration with patent trolls."

Microsoft and Google are going after each other in various markets. Earlier this week, Microsoft claimed Google was getting around cookie protections in Internet Explorer.

Google said the P3P policy statements Microsoft was requesting were out-of-date and unusable, claiming many vendors refused to use them.