Crazy as it sounds, Motorola Mobility — the mobile devices division of Motorola purchased by Google — just secured an injunction to prohibit the sale of major Microsoft products in Germany, including Windows 7 and the Xbox 360.
A court in Mannheim ruled Wednesday that several Microsoft products, including Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player, infringe on various Motorola patents relating to video compression technology, and that Microsoft must remove those items from German stores.
But in a curious cross-national legal development, Motorola was preemptively ordered in April by a U.S. court not to enforce the German ban, were it granted, pending a ruling on a related patent dispute in Seattle. The chances Motorola would act to immediately enforce the German ban are thus nil, says Microsoft. What’s more, Reuters notes that Microsoft has already moved its European distribution operations from Germany to the Netherlands in anticipation of the German ruling.
“This is one step in a long process, and we are confident that Motorola will eventually be held to its promise to make its standard essential patents available on fair and reasonable terms for the benefit of consumers who enjoy video on the web,” said Microsoft in a statement. “Motorola is prohibited from acting on today’s decision, and our business in Germany will continue as usual while we appeal this decision and pursue the fundamental issue of Motorola’s broken promise.”
At issue in the Mannheim ruling, specifically, were two Motorola patents for H.264 video playback. H.264 is an industry standard for video compression, first published in 2003. On its website, Motorola lists H.264 as one of several major patent holdings that include 2G, 3G, 4G, MPEG-4, 802.11 and near field communications (NFC).
The Mannheim ruling is the latest development in a rash of international patent lawsuits brought by companies like Apple, Samsung, Google and Microsoft as global sales of devices like mobile phones and tablets that depend on patented technologies skyrocket. Microsoft is working to have U.S. imports of Motorola’s Android-based phones blocked, for instance, while Motorola’s working to do the same to Microsoft’s Xbox 360. And both Microsoft and Apple have challenged the fees Motorola charges on the retail price of products that use its technology, an issue the European Commission is currently investigating.
The next step in the Microsoft-Motorola patent dispute: a hearing on the Seattle patent case, scheduled for May 7.