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Usually, patent disputes are courtly affairs, decided before a judge and making most readers nod off and turn to the latest Lindsay Lohan news. Thank goodness for companies such as Motorola Mobility and Microsoft, who are having a very public cat-fight over patent royalties. You can hear the Silicon Valley hissing all the way from the East Coast.
Both the Google-owned cell phone maker and the Windows giant need to license each other’s patents, and both are crying foul. Today, All Things Digital poked the hornets nest for comment. The reaction could not be described as warm and cuddly.
Microsoft charges that Motorola Mobility wants a $22.50 royalty on Window sales to include the video standard H.264. Google responds by asking (in corporate-speak, of course): ‘what have you been smoking?’
Motorola’s patent-licensing fee isn’t “remotely close to a reasonable price,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel Dave Heiner wrote February at his blog. The royalty would result in the software giant paying $4 billion just for access to the Google-owned video patents, he claimed. Motorola Mobility has been charging just 50 cents on Windows for the past two years, responded vice president Kirk Dailey. That works out to just $150 million.
Microsoft seems taken aback by the whole two-bits offer, saying it has been aware of that new fee for two days, not two years.
Even when the two firms seem to nearly agree on patent-licensing terms the claws remain out. Motorola Mobility, according to Dailey, is willing to pay Microsoft 33-cents for each Android phone using the Redmond, Wash.-firm’s ActiveSync software, thus avoiding a potentially nasty ruling from the U.S. International Trade Commission set to go into effect in July.
In turn, Microsoft says the offer is just Google’s way of placating potential federal probes into its actions.
“At a time when the FTC, prominent members of Congress, and leading companies from across the industry are expressing concern about Google’s refusal to honor its obligations to standards bodies, this appears to be little more than an effort to change the subject,” says Microsoft vice-president and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez.
Looks like any budding friendships between these two Silicon Valley titans is certainly patent-pending.
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