Microsoft avoids Lumia import ban, wins patent victory over InterDigital

Joseph Finney

Patents have been the scourge of the tech world for decades, and that will not be changing anytime soon. Many companies are currently engaged in patent suits with several different competitors at the same time and many occurring right now. Microsoft has been on both ends of many patent disputes and recently scored a victory over technology company InterDigital. The ruling is good for Microsoft but has little to no effect on the smartphone industry as it pertains to common patents on technology used by all major players.
The lawsuit was concerning 3G handsets, including the Lumia line of smartphones, which use specific method for saving power. InterDigital originally went after Nokia in 2007 and won with a judge ruling Nokia infringed upon the patent and recommended an import ban. When Microsoft bought Nokia they inherited the suit, but recently the US International Trade Commission (ITC) overruled the earlier decision as well as declined to block the import of devices.
One major complexity within these technology patent cases resides in the idea some technology is essential to making computers or cell phones work. When the industry decides a patent is essential, the owner of that patent is required to license it at a reasonable cost. This particular case could have been used to adjust the rules on essential technology patents and how ‘reasonable licensing fees’ are determined.
Unfortunately, the ITC said Microsoft did not infringe upon InterDigital’s patents, and left it at that. A wider ruling concerning how licensing fee are decided would have been more impactful for the industry but that will have to come another time. Microsoft was obviously happy with the ruling, saying they were, “grateful the Commission stopped InterDigital from trying to block our products.” While InterDigital took the opportunity to highlight Microsoft’s failure in the smartphone industry saying, “given the decline of the Nokia mobile device business under Microsoft’s control and its limited market position.”