The battle over the intellectual property at the heart of Google's (GOOG) Android operating system is heating up.
On Friday, Microsoft (MSFT) sued Motorola (MOT), a key Google partner, for allegedly infringing upon nine Microsoft patents. The software giant says Motorola's Android-based smartphones use technology owned by Microsoft "that are essential to the smartphone user experience."
It's the latest legal challenge against Android, and further evidence of how high the stakes are in the escalating war for advantage in the mobile industry. In March, Apple (AAPL) sued HTC, another of Google's key Android partners, for allegedly infringing on 20 patents related to the iPhone, including aspects of its touch screen, user interface and user-sensing technology. In May, HTC struck back, suing Apple for allegedly violating HTC patents.
"Motorola Needs to Stop"
Motorola is one of the most prominent manufacturers of Android-based phones, with several models, including the popular Droid X. In a statement, Microsoft said that patents at issue cover technology designed for "synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power."
"We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market," said Horacio Gutierrez, a deputy general counsel at Microsoft. "Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones."
Like Apple and HTC, Microsoft filed its complaint with the International Trade Commission. The Borg also filed suit in its home jurisdiction of Seattle. For its part, Motorola issued a statement saying it will vigorously defend itself against the lawsuit.
Microsoft's lawsuit comes as the software giant is preparing the launch of its own mobile operating system, Windows Phone 7, which will initially be offered exclusively on devices which run on AT&T's (T) network.