Monday, April 29, 2013

Microsoft v. Motorola - Judge Robart's FRAND Rate Setting Decision & Commentators

Last week Judge Robart of the US District Court for the Western District of Washington released Findings of Facts and Conclusions of Law setting the FRAND rate for Microsoft's infringement of two Motorola Mobility patents. The decision highlights the court's authority in setting FRAND royalty rates.

FOSS Patents and Groklaw have extensively commented on Judge Robart's 207-page findings: Mr. Mueller of FOSS Patents chortles Google lost: A closer look at the 207-page, landmark FRAND rate-setting decision in Microsoft v. Motorola. I don't share his joy, but agree Microsoft appears to have won given Motorola initially sought $4 billion and was awarded less than $1.8 million per year.

In a First, Seattle Judge Sets RAND Rate in MS v. Motorola, Groklaw denies the loss arguing that Judge Robart is in Microsoft's home court in Seattle and favors Microsoft in setting the RAND rate for a couple of Motorola SEPs, followed Motorola Mobility's methodology, and feels confident the decision will be appealed.

The detailed methodology will take time to study, but I will comment that in my observation Federal district court judges are more honorable than to simply rule in favor of the local company. And arguing the local party had the home court advantage when your company loses won't persuade many judges to reverse on appeal. A stronger argument may be the judge forced Motorola to accept rates in patent pools it hasn't joined instead of following the relevant standard's body negotiation structure.

Although I appreciate Groklaw's coverage of IP issues, its article stretches a long way in an attempt to rebut Florian Mueller stating it would take 7,000 years at this RAND rate for Google to recoup its price paid for the Motorola patents (Note the SEC papers do not break out the patents separate from the technology so talking about the price paid for the Motorola patents is fiction). Referring back to Groklaw, PJ notes: "Google isn't in the 'let's sue and get a lot of money from royalties on patents' business. That's more a Microsoft strategy. Probably because no one wants Microsoft's products. Google does make money, though, buckets of it, because people like Google's products. I believe that would indicate that Google knows how to make money. Nor did they, or anyone but Florian, ever imagine that they'd get repaid the purchase price by royalties on only two of the many patents that came with the Motorola purchase. That wasn't the plan. It was, from what I read, defensive in nature."

Sure Google makes great products and lots of money. And I agree that the fate of these two patents is not indicative of the strength of the Motorola portfolio, but no one wants Microsoft's products? Most everyone I know uses Apple, Google, and Microsoft products. Most have gotten value and had problems with each company's products at times. To say probably no one wants Microsoft products and suggest its strategy is to make up for it by licensing patents is not persuasive. How did Bill Gates gain and maintain his wealth? Was it by licensing patents or selling products? Beside this case is not about Microsoft's patent licensing; it's about Google's patent licensing effort.

Copyright © 2013 Robert Moll. All rights reserved.