Google's agreement with the US Federal Trade Commission last week was momentous news. The FTC talked Google into signing a contract that explicitly states the company would no longer seek injunctions for SEPs, so long as other companies are willing to license them in the future.
Standard-Essential Patents are generally patents that relate to vital parts, which are used to comply with technical standards when manufacturing a device. To reiterate, they are patents on parts and software that must be used when a phone is manufactured.
What this agreement will do is stop Google from attacking competitors through litigation, at least as often as we've seen recently. This is all fine and dandy, but there's just one problem.
The agreement mentions almost nothing about Google's existing cases. Indeed, there are some cases underway, and one in particular which involves Motorola patents. Microsoft is trying to license patents related to the H.264 video compression standard, but is not willing to pay the amount that Google is requesting.
Because of the recent agreement between Google and the FTC, Microsoft pointed out in a filing with the ITC (US International Trade Commission) today that the published agreement states Google must renounce all related SEP claims, which would inherently involve the Microsoft and Motorola case.
This brings a key question to the table: What can Google do with existing SEP cases that are already underway? Motorola, which is a subsidiary of Google, has several cases open against Microsoft and Apple.
According to FTC spokesman Peter Kaplan, "The answer is that under the order, they do not have to drop their appeals of SEP cases, but at the same time they cannot obtain or enforce any SEP exclusion orders or injunctions."
When asked if Google would remove all of its cases, FTC Chairman, Jon Leibowitz said, "My understanding is they're going to stop trying to seek [an] exclusion order at the ITC."
If you're following along closely, then you can see where all of this is starting to get a bit confusing. If you ask me, companies need to get rid of all this legal BS and just start focusing on what matters most- products and consumers. Of course, that isn't going to happen any time soon as the current market is a ripe battleground of litigation and patent related lawsuits.
The main point here is that Microsoft is trying to profit from the recent agreement between Google and the FTC by saying that all SEP related cases should be dropped, including those in the ITC. The justification for such claims, at least according to Microsoft, is that Motorola's "unreasonable royalty demands could not possibly have been accepted by Microsoft".
Unfortunately, there is no information at this time about how this agreement affects Google, and subsequently Motorola's, pending cases. Considering the Microsoft argument is timely, and the next deadline for briefs is tomorrow, this issue needs to be addressed like… now.
If you would like more information on Microsoft's filing, or would like to read the filing yourself visit the source links below.