Members of the U.S. House of Representatives from both parties have been writing letters to the International Trade Commission, siding with Microsoft and others in the tech industry on the issue of standard-essential patents, and asking the ITC to stop short of banning Xbox 360 imports in an ongoing patent dispute with Motorola.
In a series of disputes in the U.S. and abroad, Microsoft contends that Motorola is seeking unreasonable royalties for the use of patented technologies that Motorola agreed to license on fair and reasonable terms. The suits have taken on added significance following Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion, pitting Microsoft vs. Google.
Florian Mueller of the FOSS Patents blog has the full text of the letters from high-profile legislators including Rep. Lamar Smith, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee; Rep. Darrell Issa, a member of the Judiciary Committee, and Rep. John Conyers, the committee’s ranking member; and members of Washington state’s Congressional delegation.
The letters follow a similar statement from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission last week.
“An exclusion order based on alleged infringement of Standard Essential Patents creates a dangerous precedent that can harm innovation and the American economy,” writes Issa in his letter. In this particular case, he noted, excluding the the Xbox 360 would also “eliminate the only U.S. based videogame console from a market.”
An ITC administrative law judge ruled previously that Microsoft’s Xbox 360 violates four Motorola patents and recommended a ban on the import of Xbox 360s as long as they continue to infringe those patents.
“It has not been alleged or shown that Sony or Nintendo would fail to meet the demand for consumer video gaming consoles in the event that an exclusion order [was] issued,” wrote the judge, David Shaw, at the time.
Legislators from Motorola’s home state of Illinois have also weighed in on the issue, asking the ITC to come down on the side of “vigorous” intellectual property protection.
In a blog post last week, Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard wrote that the system depends on the promises that companies make to standards bodies, “and when companies break them, the system breaks down. Costs go up and popular technology products become less available. This harms both the companies that build products implementing those standards and consumers who depend on those products.”
Update: Ars Technica notes that Apple, embroiled in its own patent dispute with Motorola, also has written a letter supporting Microsoft’s position in the case.