US ITC refuses to ban Microsoft's Xbox at Google's request

The ITC has confirmed an initial ruling in March by an administrative law judge

The U.S. International Trade Commission has turned down a request for a ban on Microsoft's Xbox after finding that the gaming device did not infringe a patent owned by Google's Motorola Mobility unit.

The ITC's ruling Thursday has essentially confirmed an initial ruling by administrative law judge David P. Shaw in March that the Xbox did not infringe a Motorola patent relating to wireless peer-to-peer communications.

"We're disappointed with this decision and are evaluating our options," Motorola's spokesman William Moss said in an email on Thursday.

The patent in question was the last in the dispute which was filed in the ITC in November 2010 by Motorola which accused Microsoft of infringing five of its patents.

Google acquired Motorola last year for US$12.5 billion, in part for its patent portfolio.

Motorola dropped two patents relating to the H.264 video encoding standard from the investigation in January this year after Microsoft filed that it expected Motorola to withdraw claims relating to the patents in view of a settlement earlier in the month between Google and the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over standard-essential patents and other issues. Two other patents, relating to the 802.11 standard, were withdrawn by Motorola from the investigation in October last year.

Judge Shaw had in April last year recommended a ban on Xbox consoles in the U.S., and found that Microsoft failed to establish that Motorola's alleged obligation to provide a license on FRAND (fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory) terms precluded a finding of violation of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930. Section 337 investigations conducted by the ITC most often involve claims regarding intellectual property rights, including allegations of patent infringement and trademark infringement by imported goods, and can lead to the ban on their imports into the U.S.

The ITC decided to review the recommendation, and remanded the investigation to Judge Shaw.

Government agencies including the FTC, U.S. Congressmen and companies have warned against the misuse of standard-essential patents to seek bans on sales of products.

In a letter earlier this week to the ITC on a dispute between Apple and Samsung Electronics, U.S. Senators Mike Lee, Amy Klobuchar, Mark Begich and Jim Risch wrote that for the standards setting process to function effectively, companies that have committed to license their standard-essential patents on FRAND terms must seek to resolve their disputes over their patents through a royalty agreement or a judicial determination of a reasonable rate.

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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