An image from the patent filing shows what qualified as a cutting-edge mobile device back in the day.

The year was 1998. Bill Clinton was president, the original PlayStation was going head-to-head with the Nintendo 64, and a group of engineers from Microsoft’s Windows CE team filed a patent application for “Generating Meeting Requests And Group Scheduling From a Mobile Device.”

Thirteen years later, the patent they later received has come back to play a crucial role in Microsoft’s dispute with Motorola — a closely watched test for the Redmond company’s controversial claims that Google’s Android mobile operating system violates its patents, and warrants royalty payments from makers of Android devices.

Motorola Atrix, one of 18 Android devices from Motorola that Microsoft says violates its patents under the preliminary ITC ruling.

Theodore Essex, an administrative law judge with the International Trade Commission, made the initial determination yesterday that Motorola violated four claims included in that one Microsoft patent, No. 6370566, raising the possibility of an injunction if the ITC upholds the decision in its final ruling.

“We are pleased with the ITC’s initial determination finding Motorola violated four claims of a Microsoft patent,” said David Howard, a Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel, in a statement released by the company. “As Samsung, HTC, Acer and other companies have recognized, respecting others’ intellectual property through licensing is the right path forward.”

Here’s the catch: Microsoft originally filed suit over nine patents, but two of them were dropped during the course of the case, and the judge found no violations by Motorola of the other six patents remaining in the dispute.

“We are very pleased that the majority of the rulings were favorable to Motorola Mobility,” said Scott Offer, senior vice president and general counsel of Motorola Mobility, in a statement released by the company. “The ALJ’s initial determination may provide clarity on the definition of the Microsoft 566 patent for which a violation was found and will help us avoid infringement of this patent in the U.S. market.”

The date of patent filing underscores the fact that Microsoft was an early player in the mobile market, even though it has fallen behind Apple and Google in the smartphone era, forced to play catch-up with its Windows Phone operating system.

It’s also no coincidence that the patent deals with business communications. That was the traditional focus for Microsoft in the mobile market, so much that it overlooked the consumer trends that ultimately fueled the smartphone industry.

Here’s the extended summary of the invention described in the 1998 patent filing, which was issued as a patent to Microsoft in 2002.

The present invention includes a mobile device which provides the user with the ability to schedule a meeting request from the mobile device itself. The mobile device creates an object representative of the meeting request and assigns the object a global identification number which uniquely identifies the object to other devices which encounter the object. In this way, other devices which encounter the meeting request are capable of identifying it as a unique meeting request in order to alleviate the problem of duplicate meeting request transmissions.

In accordance with another preferred feature of the present invention, an electronic mail application or calendar application on the mobile device obtains a fully qualified electronic mail address for the potential attendees from an abridged address book or directory stored on the mobile device itself. This alleviates problems associated with the storage capacity of the mobile device.

In accordance with another preferred embodiment of the present invention, the mobile device creates the meeting object and the electronic mail meeting request object using a set of properties which are supported by a plurality of PIMs that may receive the objects. This provides compatibility with an increased number of devices which are likely to encounter the objects.

In accordance with yet another preferred feature of the present invention, localizers implement a plurality of templates on the mobile device which are used in formatting the properties of the objects associated with the meeting request. A data stream representative of the meeting request is parsed by the mobile device and placed in pre-defined fields in the appropriate templates so that the text viewed by the user of the mobile device more closely conforms to local convention. In addition, time zone information is also included in one embodiment.

If an injunction is ultimately issued by the ITC, how hard would it be for Motorola to work around the Microsoft patent? If you’re up for some armchair patent lawyering, the full patent filing is here, and Motorola was found by the judge to be in violation of Claims 1, 2, 5 and 6.

Comments

  • RobertinSeattle

    Take this up another step and look at Apple’s stupid lawsuit against HTC as an indirect slap against Android.

    Gee – wonder how many patents Apple violated based just on a quick glance at this old MS phone device concept? I hope all of this stuff gets tossed out soon so we can continue to see more real innovation in the phone market instead of all the posturing. We need real-world engineers at the patent office who truly understand the obvious instead of just granting every “conceptual idea” that crosses their desks.

    I mean, Really?!! Being able to click on a telephone number in a message to make a call directly? WTF?!! That’s like someone saying “I came up with the idea of hyperlinks in e-mails or websites so you can’t do that!” Give it a rest, Apple and Microsoft!

    Even armed with patents, there are some that might actually serve the greater good by releasing them into the public domain just so no other company can try to claim them and hold the industry back.

    • Guest

      Apple and MS have a cross-patent deal that’s been in place for a long time. The rest is just the usual drivel from the open source/patents are evil camp.

      • RobertinSeattle

        You gotta love it when anonymous people make unfounded, presumptuous comments. What makes you think no one else knows about Apple and Microsoft’s cross-licensing stuff?

        And what makes you assume that I’m an open-source-patents-are-evil advocate? I have 20 patents to my name and adding more – how about you?

        I was simply stating that we need some patent OFFICE reform so we don’t waste so much time and energy on stupid lawsuits and other efforts that actually slow down the marketplace.

        • Guest

          If you knew, why did you say:

          “Gee – wonder how many patents Apple violated based just on a quick glance at this old MS phone device concept?”

          On what basis do you decide these patents are weak and the lawsuits stupid? The ITC obviously disagreed.

          • RobertinSeattle

            Simple: Because Microsoft also has an agreement with Google on Android. Which explains why Apple – in their nasty Steve Jobs approach – then decided to go after HTC instead of Google directly rather than pissing off their “partner” (and also one of their biggest investors.)

            Of course, it’s easy to blast someone else’s knowledge while hiding behind an anonymous post. This conversation is over. Do your own homework. Like I said already, I HATE trolls. Patent or otherwise…

          • RobertinSeattle

            Simple: Because Microsoft also has an agreement with Google on Android. Which explains why Apple – in their nasty Steve Jobs approach – then decided to go after HTC instead of Google directly rather than pissing off their “partner” (and also one of their biggest investors.)

            Of course, it’s easy to blast someone else’s knowledge while hiding behind an anonymous post. This conversation is over. Do your own homework. Like I said already, I HATE trolls. Patent or otherwise…

        • Guest

          If you knew, why did you say:

          “Gee – wonder how many patents Apple violated based just on a quick glance at this old MS phone device concept?”

          On what basis do you decide these patents are weak and the lawsuits stupid? The ITC obviously disagreed.

  • http://twitter.com/ArcComputer david prokop

    What this patent protects are several important mobility concepts.
    It assigned a unique serial number to a calendar appointment, which can be shared across any language or any calendar application which can understand the format of the calendar object. Therefore this object – calendar, address, or mail object can be shared across ANY hardware platforms regardless of operating system or software viewer. This breaks the chains of dependency on specific software applications, and freely allows the data to be shared on any device. 15 years ago, not too many people were thinking about “free range” data.Patents hold back the industry? On the contrary, patents like these one point the way !

    • bob

       The assignment of unique numbers to objects is patentable?  Hitler did it, with out the bother of patent law.  The description of the idea they are presenting could be used against any application that has a network connection.  MS was not the first networking system, that had to track objects put on the network to ensure duplicates were deleted and that they arrived at the right location.  If your attempt is to write a application for a patent that could cover passing notes in class for a date, I this is a great one.  If it is to cover a process on how to schedule calendar events, it is nothing new.  Their patent basicly just descriped the process that everyone was seeking a solution to, not how to achieve it.  In otherwords they described the problem, not the solution.  I was under the impression; patents protect solutions, as everyone in the industry already has ideas of what the problems are.

      My boss, always tells me; “Don’t come to me with problems, bring me solutions”
      They got away with bringing in the problem.

  • bob

    The patent the way it is worded would require anyone with a pad of paper and a pencil creating a letter to someone liable to pay royalties.  It is so vague that an telephone book could be sued for patent infringement.

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