Motorola’s challenges to Apple to be decidedGoogle Chief Executive Officer Larry Page last year said his $12.5 billion bid for Motorola Mobility Holdings would help protect the Android operating system from “anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.”
Whether Page’s bet pays off could be tested Monday U.S. time as judges with the U.S. International Trade Commission are scheduled to release findings in patent-infringement cases Motorola Mobility brought against Microsoft and Apple.
Motorola Mobility victories may give Google leverage to end the global legal battles over market leadership in smartphones and tablet computers. Apple has accused makers of phones that run on Android of copying unique features of the iPhone, while Microsoft contends it’s entitled to royalties from Android phones because of its work on operating systems.
“It would be a positive sign for the acquisition if Google or Motorola can win, or if anyone from the Android community can win a major ruling,” said Alex Spektor, a New York-based analyst with researcher Strategy Analytics. “All of these companies are scrambling to use whatever intellectual property assets are at their disposal to put a nick in the armor of their competition.”
The six-member commission, based in Washington, has the power to block imports of products that violate any U.S. patent. Motorola Mobility is seeking an import ban of Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad tablet, Apple TV and Mac computers, and of Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system.
Patent lawsuits over smartphone technology have been filed over four continents, with the bulk of the international cases involving Motorola Mobility focused in Germany. Companies are fighting for higher shares of a market that researcher Gartner Inc. said grew 47 percent in the fourth quarter.
Apple, based in Cupertino, California, had 29 percent of the U.S. smartphone market in 2011, compared with less than 8 percent for Motorola Mobility, Spektor said. In operating systems, the Android platform had 55 percent, Apple had 29 percent, and Microsoft’s Windows Phone had 3 percent, he said.
Android was introduced on handsets to further Google’s advertising business and is provided free to device makers including Motorola Mobility, Samsung Electronics and HTC. Apple’s operating system, which it developed, is available only on Apple products.
While Google hasn’t been named in any of the handset or tablet cases, it’s in the midst of a trial in San Francisco in which Oracle Corp. claims Google copied the Java programming language to create Android.
Motorola Mobility has a portfolio of more than 17,000 patents. Stofega said there are other benefits to Google owning a handset maker, although Google concedes the patents were a driving issue.
“No matter how it comes out, Google can say ‘We’re a serious contender; we’re not a paper tiger,’” said David Long, a patent lawyer with Dow Lohnes in Washington who specializes in telecommunications. Google “leapt into Android without the intellectual property behind them.”