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July 12, 2013 at 4:45 PM
Microsoft sues U.S. Customs, seeks to enforce ban on some Motorola phones
Microsoft today filed a lawsuit against U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security seeking a court order forcing Customs to enforce an import ban against certain Motorola smartphones.
The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court of Washington D.C., accuses the U.S. agencies of “arbitrary refusal to enforce an order” of the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC).
The ITC ruled in May 2012 that Motorola infringed on Microsoft’s patents with its Android phones that include a feature related to calendaring in Microsoft’s ActiveSync technology. The ITC issued an import ban of those phones in July 2012.
But, Microsoft alleges in the suit, Customs allowed the import of those devices based on one-sided claims made by Motorola and also allowed Motorola to “re-litigate – in secret — issues that Motorola lost before the Commission, and has granted Motorola precisely the relief that the Commission expressly refused to grant after full, fair and open litigation.”
In the suit, Microsoft claims that Customs granted Motorola’s request for a transition period before the import ban to allow Motorola to develop a noninfringing alternative. Motorola had made the same request earlier to the ITC and been denied, Microsoft alleged.
Microsoft also objected to Customs allowing Motorola to import phones that provide the calendar function using Google servers and synchronization components, saying that, too, was inconsistent with the ITC’s ruling. (Motorola is now owned by Google.)
“Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said in a statement. “Here, Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions.”
Google also issued a statement, saying: “U.S. Customs appropriately rejected Microsoft’s effort to broaden its patent claims to block Americans from using a wide range of legitimate calendar functions, like scheduling meetings, on their mobile phones. We’re confident that the court will agree.”
A spokeswoman for Customs said the agency does not comment on pending litigation.
Microsoft and Motorola — now Google — have been engaged in patent battles spanning several continents and years. In Seattle, one of their battles is headed toward a trial that is scheduled to start on Aug. 26 in the U.S. District Court here. At issue in that trial is whether Motorola breached an agreement to license some of its patents to Microsoft on fair and reasonable terms.