Motorola fails to win Xbox ban in US and Germany

Xbox 360
Image caption Motorola will not be able to ban the Xbox despite previous patent court victories

A US judge has ruled that Google's Motorola unit cannot ban sales of Microsoft's Xbox 360 games console because of a patent dispute.

Judge James Robart's ruling came part-way through a trial in which the handset maker is claiming its rival should pay up to $4bn (£2.5bn; 3bn euros) a year for use of its connectivity and video-coding patents.

Microsoft has argued the technologies are only worth a fee of $1m a year.

The ruling also applies to Germany.

Judge Robart denied Motorola's request on the grounds that the patents in question were Frand-type innovations - inventions which the firm has recognised are critical to industry standards and should be therefore be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

They include technologies necessary to make use of videos coded in the H.264 format, and to connect to the internet over wi-fi.

Since Microsoft was not challenging the need for a fee, but rather just how much it should pay, he indicated that the outstanding amount owed could be added to Microsoft's bill once the matter was resolved.

Licence fee precedent

A German court awarded Motorola the right to ban Microsoft's Xbox console, its Internet Explorer browser and Windows Media Player in Germany in May because of the dispute.

A judge at the US's International Trade Commission (ITC) subsequently recommended an import and sales ban of Microsoft's Asia-made games console on related grounds.

But Motorola was unable to enforce either ruling pending Judge Robart's ruling in Seattle.

The current case will now continue to decide what would be a fair licence rate for the patents involved - a decision that could act as a precedent for other similar disputes.

A jury will subsequently be asked to rule whether Motorola's earlier suggestion that the two firms should negotiate a deal based on the starting point of a 2.25% royalty fee was so high that it placed the company in breach of contract.

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