Google unit says will avoid U.S. import ban on smartphones

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 17, 2012 5:29pm EDT

A posed picture shows a Motorola Droid phone displaying the Google search page in New York August 15, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

A posed picture shows a Motorola Droid phone displaying the Google search page in New York August 15, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Google unit Motorola Mobility said on Tuesday it has taken steps to avert an interruption of U.S. imports and sales of its smartphones after the devices were found to infringe on a Microsoft patent.

The importation to the United States of some Motorola Mobility smartphones was supposed to stop Wednesday as the result of an International Trade Commission ruling that the phones infringed on technology that makes it possible for consumers to use the devices to generate meeting requests and schedule gatherings.

"While we can't share specific details, we have employed a range of proactive measures to ensure there is no continuing infringement under the ITC's interpretation of this single Microsoft patent," Motorola Mobility spokeswoman Becki Leonard said in an emailed statement.

One option for Motorola Mobility would be to remove the meeting-scheduling technology from its smartphones and tablets. Microsoft has previously said that Motorola Mobility should license the technology.

The affected phones were: Atrix, Backflip, Bravo, Charm, Cliq, Cliq 2, Cliq XT, Defy, Devour, Droid 2, Droid 2 Global, Droid Pro, Droid X, Droid X2, Flipout, Flipside, Spice and the Xoom tablet.

Google acquired Motorola Mobility in May.

The legal fight at the ITC is one of dozens globally between various smartphone makers. Google's Android system has become the top-selling smartphone operating system, ahead of mobile systems by Apple, Microsoft, Research in Motion and others.

In mid-May, some HTC smartphone models were stopped at the U.S. border because it lost a patent dispute with Apple at the ITC in December. Shares in HTC tumbled more than 6 percent when shipments were held up.

In a complaint filed in October 2010, Microsoft accused Motorola Mobility of infringing nine patents. The ITC ruled in May that Motorola Mobility infringed on one.

Google's Android software has recently become the most popular cellphone operating system with 56 percent of the market in the first quarter of 2012, according to data from Gartner Inc.

The ITC is a popular venue for patent litigation since it has the power to forbid the importation of products that infringe on patents.

The case at the ITC is No. 337-744. (Reporting by Diane Bartz; Editing by Andrew Hay)

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