Microsoft beats Google in Motorola fight

August 16, 2011

Monday was mostly a good day for Google and Motorola. Unless you’re on vacation where there’s no Internet access, in which case you’re not reading this, you’re surely aware that Google announced its $12.5 billion acquisition of Motorola, which means that Google is picking up one of the best patent portfolios in wireless history — and supposedly had the pleasure of besting Microsoft in doing so. But the news wasn’t all good for Google and its new best friend, Motorola. Deep down in the patent litigation trenches at the U.S. International Trade Commission, Administrative Law Judge Theodore Essex denied Google’s high-profile, third-party motion for sanctions against Microsoft in Microsoft’s infringement suit against Motorola.

Okay, so it’s not exactly on a par with the $12.5 billion deal. It’s a little humbling, though, for Google and its lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan. As I mentioned yesterday, Google filed an Aug. 10 motion for sanctions in the Microsoft ITC case, claiming that Microsoft violated a confidentiality order when it disclosed Google code to one of its experts without informing Google. (The ITC proceeding, in case you hadn’t figured it out, involves Motorola products that employ Google’s Android operating system.) Google asserted that when it found out what Microsoft planned to disclose, in-house lawyer Matthew Warren emailed a Microsoft lawyer to request a conference. Microsoft, according to Google, didn’t respond. Google then filed the sanctions motion.

But Judge Essex said Google rushed to judgment. The ground rules in the case, in which just about everything is (frustratingly) shielded by the confidentiality order, say that any party that objects to another’s use of confidential materials has to make a good-faith effort to resolve the dispute, and then must wait two days before filing a motion for sanctions. “The ALJ finds no basis to discern from Google’s statement whether Google made a reasonable, good-faith effort to resolve the matter with Microsoft,” Judge Essex wrote. “The ALJ notes to Google failed to attach the Warren email to its motion and it is unclear whether Google even notified Microsoft of its intention to file the instant motion.”

There you have it: evidence that Google may know how to snatch a $12.5 billion company away from Microsoft, but not how to make nice with its rival in a discovery fight. I left word with Microsoft counsel Brian Nester of Sidley Austin; Motorola counsel Charles Schill of Steptoe & Johnson; and Google counsel Amy Candido of Quinn. None got back to me.

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