The first test of Microsoft's claims that device makers running Google's Android mobile operating system have infringed on its patents comes Monday.
That's when Administrative Law Judge Theodore R. Essex of the U.S. International Trade Commission will hear Microsoft's claims against Motorola, in one of the most closely watched patent disputes in techdom. Microsoft filed claims last October that Motorola's Android-based smartphones infringe on nine patents related to syncing e-mail, calendar, and contacts, and notifying applications about changes in signal strength and battery power. Microsoft brought the dispute before the ITC in order to block shipments of Motorola devices from manufacturing facilities abroad before they hit U.S. soil. Both Microsoft and Motorola declined to comment on the hearing.
Microsoft has filed similar claims with the ITC against other mobile-device makers, including Barnes & Noble for its Nook electronic reading tablet. Apple has similarly sued Taiwanese handset maker HTC over claims that its handsets infringe on iPhone patents.
The hearing that begins Monday at the ITC's headquarters in Washington, D.C., will focus on the validity of Microsoft's patents and on whether Motorola infringed on them. In addition to Microsoft and Motorola making their cases, lawyers from the ITC may also chime in to guide Judge Essex. The hearing is scheduled to last about 10 days.
But don't expect an instant verdict. The judge will make an initial determination later this year, followed by a final judgement in 2012. If he rules that Motorola did infringe on Microsoft's patents, he could then issue an injunction blocking shipments of devices in dispute.
While Google is not a party to the litigation, it will loom large in the case. Earlier this month, Google sought to bar one of Microsoft's expert witnesses from testifying, arguing that Microsoft improperly disclosed Android source code with him. Last week, Essex denied that request, ruling that Google didn't appear to make an attempt to resolve the matter within the rules he has set for the case.
Microsoft also has a separate lawsuit in federal court in Washington state alleging the same patent infringement claims. And, as is typical in patent disputes, Motorola has filed a countersuit, accusing Microsoft of infringing 16 patents in its Xbox gaming console and in Windows for servers, PCs, and mobile devices.