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.
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.