Microsoft vs. Motorola: It’s game day, and the jury is dressed accordingly

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Updated with details of Motorola’s closing argument.

After a trial lasting more than a week, lawyers for Microsoft and Motorola are making their closing arguments in U.S. District Court in Seattle this morning, before the jury starts its deliberations in the high-profile patent case this afternoon.

Even after hours upon hours of testimony about esoteric stuff such as standard-essential patents, 802.11 and H.264 technologies, the jury apparently hasn’t lost its esprit de corps. They’ve started coordinating their outfits each day. Yesterday, they all wore green, and today they’re all wearing shirts of their favorite sports teams.

They’ve clearly bonded, at least. One potential red flag: There is at least one University of Washington Huskies shirt, and another Washington State University Cougars shirt.

The case they’ll decide is a breach-of-contract dispute. Microsoft alleges that Motorola violated its commitments to standards-setting groups by offering to license its standard-essential patents to Microsoft at rates much higher than the reasonable and non-discriminatory terms required by those groups. Motorola says its initial offers were merely intended to be the start of negotiations.

During his closing argument, Microsoft lawyer Art Harrigan, of Calfo Harrigan Leyh & Eakes, referenced a Motorola witness who said that the offers were merely pieces of paper.

“Well, so is a ransom note,” said Harrigan.

U.S. District Judge James Robart, who is presiding over the jury trial, ruled previously that a fair and reasonable licensing deal would require Microsoft to pay only a fraction of what Motorola originally offered — less than $1.8 million a year, compared with $4 billion a year if Motorola’s original offers were taken at face value, Microsoft says.

Motorola lawyer Bill Price, of the law firm Quinn Emanuel, is up next with the company’s closing argument. During opening statements last week, he urged the jury to consider the situation in the context of the broader discussions and disputes taking place between the companies at the time, including a patent suit filed by Microsoft against Motorola over Android a few weeks before.

The case is a proxy for the larger battle between Microsoft and Google, which acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion last year.

Microsoft is seeking damages including lawyer’s fees and $23 million to recover the cost of moving a distribution center to the Netherlands after Motorola won an injunction in Germany.

Update, 12:00 p.m.: During his arguments, Price said Motorola has circumstantial evidence that Microsoft’s lawsuit in this case was in retaliation for Motorola turning to Android, in advance of Microsoft’s 2010 Windows Phone launch.

He noted, for example, that circumstantial evidence would indicate that a group of people who show up all wearing green, not on St. Patrick’s Day, had agreed in advance on what they would wear. (That elicited at least one smirk from the jury box.)

“Before this lawsuit, Motorola and Microsoft had lived in patent peace for years,” he said, adding that Motorola was hoping to reach a “zero-zero” agreement where both companies could freely use each other’s patented technologies without payment either way.

He added later, “What Motorola expected was negotiation.”