Judge invalidates 13 Motorola Mobility patent claims in Microsoft case

The patent claims are 'indistinguishable' from a general purpose computer, the judge says

A U.S. district court judge has ruled that 13 Motorola Mobility patent claims related to digital video are invalid in a patent licensing case brought by Microsoft.

Judge James Robart of U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington ruled Wednesday that the patent claims, related to encoding and decoding a bitstream of digital video data and the H.264 video codec standard are not valid because they aren't adequately tied to a specific invention apart from a general purpose computer.

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The claims are tied to three Motorola patents.

Robart, in his ruling, granted Microsoft's request for a summary judgment against the patents. Microsoft filed a lawsuit against the Google-owned Motorola in November 2010, arguing that the mobile technology company had reneged on promises to make the video and some WLAN patents available on fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory terms.

Motorola had argued that each Windows 7 OS and each copy of Internet Explorer 9 sold in the U.S. infringed its patents.

Robert didn't buy Motorola's defense of its patents. "Microsoft provides substantial evidence by way of citations to technical journals and dictionaries that each of the examples is nothing more than a computer chip that must be programmed or designed to perform the desired function," he wrote. "Hence ... the disclosed examples of the decoder in the specification amount to general purpose devices programmed to perform the function of the claimed means limitation, and therefore, are indistinguishable from the general purpose computer."

A Google spokeswoman wasn't immediately available for comment.

A judge's ruling on licensing terms for the Motorola patents is expected soon.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

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