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Microsoft Sues USA to Bar Motorola Imports

WASHINGTON (CN) - Microsoft sued the Department of Homeland Security, claiming Uncle Sam is letting Motorola import patent-infringing products in violation of an International Trade Commission exclusion order.

Microsoft sued the United States, the DHS, the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection and the agencies' top officials in Federal Court.

It claims that DHS and Customs are allowing its mobile technology nemesis Motorola import wireless devices with a calendar function that infringes on Microsoft patents.

The complaint is one more battle in the war between several wireless tech giants lobbing lawsuits at each other in search of patent royalties.

According to the complaint, the ITC issued an exclusion order in May 2012, barring Google-owned Motorola's devices that infringe on Microsoft's patent rights from importation into the United States.

"Defendants, through the United States Bureau of Customs and Border Protection ('CBP'), have a mandatory duty to enforce the Commission's order," states the complaint. "Yet, in a series of recent actions, CBP has allowed the importation of infringing devices based on claims that Motorola has made on an ex parte basis, and that CBP has accepted without providing Microsoft notice of those claims, much less an opportunity to address them. Most egregiously, CBP has 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."

According to Microsoft, Motorola requested that the ITC grant it a transition period while the company tried to develop a non-infringing alternative, but the request was denied. Despite this denial, Microsoft claims, Motorola persuaded Customs to keep allowing it to import infringing devices.

The patent in question relates to synchronization in mobile devices. According to Microsoft, its patent allows users to schedule an event in their mobile device calendar and synchronize it with calendars in other devices.

It claims says Motorola licensed Microsoft's patent to build its own synchronizing calendar application, but continued putting the application on its devices after its licensing agreement had expired in 2007, prompting the ITC order.

But while the ITC shut the door on Motorola, the company was able to open it back up by persuading CBP with a bogus story that Microsoft had abandoned its reliance on Google servers and protocols to keep accepting the devices in America, Microsoft claims.

Microsoft's complaint comes two months after a federal judge ruled that Motorola cannot force Microsoft to pay it $4 billion a year for wireless technology, determining that the licenses are worth less than half of that.

A week before that ruling, the ITC dismissed Motorola's claim that Apple's mobile devices infringe on Motorola's internal phone sensor patent.

Google bought Motorola Mobility for $12.4 billion last year, largely to take on Apple and compete directly in the $51 billion U.S. smartphone market. By acquiring Motorola, Google gained access to more than 17,000 cellphone-related patents owned by Motorola. But it has had a rough go at enforcing them in court, suffering a string of legal defeats.

According to ZDNet, Microsoft owes Motorola $1.8 million a year in licensing fees.

Microsoft now seeks to strike Google again, this time through its suit against DHS and Customs.

Microsoft seeks an injunction enforcing the ITC exclusion order, which would bar Motorola from importing any redesigned devices that include the calendar application configured to communicate with either Exchange servers and protocols or Google servers and protocols.

Microsoft is represented by Joseph Guerra with Sidley Austin.

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