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Microsoft Sues Motorola Again Over Patent Issues

For the second time in just over a month, Microsoft is hauling Motorola into court on issues related to patents. Will this further chill the relationship between the two companies?

In its latest lawsuit, filed Tuesday in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, Microsoft claims that Motorola broke its promise to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) to license its patents "under reasonable and non-discriminatory terms and conditions."

According to the filing, Motorola owns the rights several patents that are part of the 802.11 standard, several of which came from its 2007 acquisition of Symbol Technologies. Motorola and Symbol promised to offer reasonable licensing terms for patents that are "essential" to the 802.11 standard, and the IEEE took these guarantees into account in releasing the standard.

Motorola offered a similar guarantee to the ITU with respect to its H.264 video patents, according to the lawsuit filing. Based on these promises, Microsoft added WLAN and H.264 technology to the Xbox and is also using H.264 in Windows 7 and Windows Phone 7, according to the filing.

Microsoft's lawsuit alleges that Motorola's failed to honor its promises to standards bodies and is trying to extract additional royalties from companies using 802.11 and H.264.

"Those commitments are designed to benefit all parties that rely upon these standards, and Microsoft has been harmed by Motorola's failure to honor them in recent demand letters seeking royalties from Microsoft," a Microsoft spokesperson said in a statement.

Motorola couldn't be reached for comment on the lawsuit. But the lawsuit could bring additional frost to the once-strong Microsoft-Motorola relationship.

Microsoft last month sued Motorola over its implementation of Android in its Droid smartphones.

Microsoft has long asserted ownership of a broad range of Linux patents. Its lawsuit against Motorola centers on nine different Microsoft patents related to features such as synchronizing e-mail, calendars and contacts, and notifications of changes in signal strength and battery power.

Motorola has made big investments in Android, and it's taking a wait and see stance on Windows Phone 7. However, Motorola co-CEO Sanjay Jha recently described the new OS as "a rational offering" and suggested his company might be willing to work with Microsoft on devices.

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