Posted by Horacio Gutierrez
Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel

As many of you may have seen, Microsoft filed an action today in the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola, Inc. for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorola’s Android-based smartphones.  We have released a press statement about our suit, but I thought I would provide a bit more context here around the innovations infringed by Motorola’s Android-based smartphones and how our suit fits into ongoing developments in the smartphone space.

As we all know, smartphones have become an integral part of people’s daily lives and are used for a variety of tasks beyond making phone calls; from watching video and listening to music to staying in touch with family and friends. The Microsoft innovations at issue in this case help make smartphones “smart.”  Indeed, our patents relate to key features that users have come to expect from every smartphone.  The ability to send and receive email on-the-go has driven smartphone adoption.  Nowadays, everyone expects to receive e-mail from multiple services in real time, to read it on their phones, and to reply or send new messages out – in continuous and seamless synchronization with their email services.  Microsoft’s Exchange ActiveSync, a proprietary technology that we developed, makes this possible. 

But people manage more than email from their devices, they manage their lives.  Users can not only send and receive email from smartphones; they can also manage their calendars.  Their phones will remind them of appointments and allow them to schedule new ones.  Similarly, users maintain lists of contacts on their phones, so that they can easily stay connected – by phone, text message, or email – to the people they interact with most.  Again, our technology enables people to see their calendar and email contacts on their phone, and to manage their calendar and contacts from whatever device they are using.

People use smartphones for much more as well:  they surf the web, play music and videos, and run apps.  Consumers expect more and more from their smartphones every day, making their phones resemble not so much a phone as a handheld computer.  Of course, for certain apps to run efficiently on handheld devices, they must be notified of changes in signal strength and battery power and the device must manage memory for storing data.  Given the wide range of functionality smartphones offer, they also need to be able to display relevant choices for users efficiently.  Microsoft’s patented technologies tackle all of these challenges.

That Microsoft has important patents in this area should not surprise anyone – we’ve spent over 30 years developing cutting-edge computer software.  As I mentioned in my blog post last March, the key value proposition of smartphones has moved from the radio stack to the software stack, as people buy smartphones because they are fully functional computers that fit in the palm of your hand.  With this shift, it is imperative that companies address IP issues related to the software that makes possible this new class of devices.  The rules of the road are long-established in the software industry, and fundamental to the industry’s growth and economic impact is respect for others’ intellectual property rights. 

Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices; and judging by the recent actions by Apple and Oracle, we are not alone in this respect.