Microsoft Sues Motorola Over Android

Microsoft Corp. accused Motorola Inc. of violating its patents with smartphones that use Google Inc.’s Android operating system, firing a legal salvo in a market where Microsoft has struggled.

The Redmond, Wash., company said it filed complaints against Motorola with the International Trade Commission and federal court in Seattle, alleging that Motorola’s Android-based phones violate nine Microsoft patents covering the synchronization of email, calendars and contacts, scheduling of meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.

“We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market,” said Horacio Gutierrez, a deputy general counsel at Microsoft, in a statement. “Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones.”

Mr. Gutierrez noted in a blog post that other technology companies, including Apple Inc. and Oracle Corp., have also filed legal actions over alleged patent infringement in Android smartphones. Earlier this year, Microsoft struck a patent-licensing agreement with HTC Corp., another Android handset maker.

Motorola issued a statement saying it had not yet received a copy of the complaint. “Motorola has a leading intellectual property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry,” it said. “The company will vigorously defend itself in this matter.”

Microsoft’s suit doesn’t name Google as a defendant. Google wasn’t immediately available to comment.

Motorola is one of the big proponents of Android-based phones, having discontinued using Microsoft’s own mobile operating system and built its turnaround on Google’s free software. The suit comes as Motorola is preparing to split itself in two, establishing a standalone cellphone business.

Microsoft, meanwhile, has struggled in the mobile-phone market and seen its share of devices running Windows based software fall behind devices running Android and Apple’s iPhone.

In the past year, Microsoft’s share of the smartphone operating system market has nearly halved, falling to 5% in the second quarter from 9.3% a year ago, according to Gartner.

Microsoft will formally unveil a lineup of smartphones using the revamped version of its mobile operating system on Oct. 11, and AT&T Inc. will begin offering them four weeks later, according to people familiar with the launch plans.

Android has since replaced Microsoft as the mobile operating system of choice for handset vendors that don’t already have their own proprietary software. And while Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Co. and HTC have committed to making Windows Phone 7 devices, all of them have a much larger presence in Android.

Microsoft’s own attempt to create a youth-oriented mobile device earlier this year fizzled. The company and carrier partner Verizon Wireless launched a line of Kin phones, but they scrapped it in July after only two months in the market.

The company has been widely criticized for fumbling its acquisition of Danger, which created the software that powered the Sidekick messaging device popular with younger consumers.


NICK WINGFIELD / Wall Street Journal Online

Click video to hear audio