Big news today in the Microsoft-Motorola RAND breach of contract dispute taking place before the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington.  After the November 2012 bench trial and significant post-trial briefing between the parties on a variety of issues, we finally have an order from the court.  However, we will need to

A couple of weeks ago, we noted a peculiar minute order emanating from Judge James L. Robart’s courtroom in the Microsoft-Motorola RAND case.  Based on his review of Google’s AVC/H.264 standard-essential patent pool license agreement with MPEG LA, Judge Robart asked the parties to submit short letter briefs addressing two questions regarding the relevance of the Enterprise License provision (Section 3.1.7) to any grantback license that Motorola (as a subsidiary of Google) might owe to Microsoft.

Late Friday, the parties submitted their respective answers to the court’s questions (Microsoft’s / Motorola’s).  The parties’ answers and arguments show just how millions of dollars in royalties could turn on the interpretation of just a couple of short phrases in the MPEG LA agreement.  After the jump, we’ll provide a short summary of both Microsoft’s and Motorola’s positions.  Essentially, though, the parties’ arguments boil down to this — Was the MPEG LA agreement’s grantback provision designed to extend to all affiliates of a given licensee, whether those affiliates receive any benefits under the agreement or not?


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Even though the trial in the Microsoft-Motorola RAND dispute took place over three months ago, there’s been a lot going on in Washington lately.  In addition to the arguments regarding the relevance of the Google-MPEG LA AVC/H.264 patent license agreement, recall that a couple weeks ago, Judge James L. Robart granted Motorola’s request to submit additional information that may be relevant to determining the RAND rate.  Late Friday, both Motorola and Microsoft filed these documents with the court — documents that may actually raise more issues than they help resolve (and may ultimately have no bearing on Judge Robart’s decision).
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gavelIn an order issued yesterday by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington (that just hit the docket this afternoon), Judge James L. Robart granted Microsoft’s long-pending motion for partial summary judgment and invalidated thirteen claims of three patents Motorola alleged as essential to the AVC/H.264 video coding standard.  Although this ruling stems from the infringement portion of the case, and the major issues between the parties involve the RAND breach of contract claims brought by Microsoft over Motorola’s entire 802.11 and H.264-essential patent portfolios, it’s possible that Judge Robart’s ruling could have some future effect on these RAND claims as well.
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[UPDATE]  Since this post was originally published on January 22, the deadline passed for the parties to submit extrinsic evidence and additional arguments supporting their respective interpretations of the Google-MPEG LA AVC/H.264 license agreement.  Microsoft submitted both a brief and a supporting Declaration of Lawrence A. Horn, who is the President and CEO of MPEG LA, LLC.  Mr. Horn’s declaration supports Microsoft’s argument (as detailed in our original post below) that the scope of the grant-back under the MPEG LA license agreement extends to all Affiliates of Google, not just to those specifically identified.  For its part, Motorola argues that the “scope” language of the MPEG LA agreement remains ambiguous, and that Mr. Horn’s declaration represents inadmissible hearsay because Motorola was unable to cross-examine him.

The parties’s respective briefs and Mr. Horn’s declaration may be accessed from the links below:

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Judge Robart’s forthcoming opinion in the Microsoft v. Motorola RAND breach of contract case in the Western District of Washington is highly anticipated by those who pay attention to standard-essential patent disputes, as it will likely provide a judicially-sanctioned roadmap for how to determine RAND terms and conditions in a given licensing situation.  But before he issues a written decision, a hearing is scheduled for January 28, during which Judge Robart will hear oral argument from Microsoft and Motorola regarding the implications that Google’s AVC/H.264 patent pool license agreement with MPEG-LA may have on the appropriate RAND terms for Motorola Mobility’s H.264-essential patent portfolio. (Google, of course, being the parent company of Motorola Mobility since it acquired Motorola in May 2012).


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