Xbox 360 Should Be Banned from U.S. for Violating Patents, Judge Says

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Microsoft, Techland Illustration

Microsoft’s Xbox 360 should be banned from import and sales in the United States for violating Motorola patents, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge ruled.

The Xbox 360 violates four Motorola patents, according to ITC Administrative Law Judge David Shaw, Wired reports. Shaw made his initial ruling against Microsoft in April, and now recommends a ban on sales and import of the game console.

But don’t expect the Xbox 360 to vanish from store shelves anytime soon. Shaw’s ruling still faces approval or modifications by the ITC’s board of commissioners–with a deadline of August 23–and even if they agree completely with Shaw, they must still get a sign off from the Obama administration within 60 days.

The patent battle between Microsoft and Motorola spills beyond the ITC as well, and involves more than just the Xbox 360. Motorola successfully sued Microsoft for patent infringement in Germany, but a separate Microsoft lawsuit against Motorola in Seattle prevents Motorola from enforcing a sales ban there, at least temporarily. That’s because Motorola’s patents deal with the H.264 codec for online video, which is a standard that Microsoft says should be licensed on fair and reasonable terms. (Here’s a post at FOSS Patents if you want to bury yourself in the technicalities.) Meanwhile, Microsoft has won its own import ban against 18 Android phones by Motorola, in a separate patent infringement ruling by the ITC.

In other words, it’s a big, sloppy mess that isn’t going to be resolved without a heap of time, money and lawyers. The ideal outcome for consumers would be a broad cross-licensing agreement that would allow the Xbox 360 and Motorola phones to co-exist. But Microsoft is already getting hefty patent ransoms from other Android phone makers, and likely doesn’t want to let Motorola off the hook too easily, especially now that it’s owned by Google.

In the meantime, keep enjoying your tech products as usual–and maybe pray that the patent gods don’t take them away.

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