Microsoft narrowly avoid smartphone import ban in USA

Just as Microsoft must be gearing up for the launch of the Microsoft Cityman and Talkman in USA the company managed to overturn a looming import ban on its smartphone hardware.

Yesterday the U.S. International Trade Commission declined to block the import of Microsoft’s handsets after an earlier April ruling by a trade judge had found Microsoft had infringed two InterDigital Inc wireless patents, and recommended an import ban which would have affected any Microsoft phone using 3G cellular technology, including its Lumia smartphones.

The patent dispute is long standing, and dates back to 2007 when InterDigital first accused Nokia of infringing its technology for optimising a cellphone’s power to connect to a network. Microsoft completed its purchase of Nokia’s phone division in April 2014.

In April 2015 a U.S. trade judge ruled that Microsoft used InterDigital’s patents, considered standard in the industry, but refused to pay for a license to them.

After reviewing that ruling, the ITC said on Friday that Microsoft did not violate the patents, but it did not address the issue of fair licensing for essential patents. Earlier in August Microsoft sued InterDigital in Delaware federal court, claiming InterDigital violated U.S. antitrust law by breaking promises to offer licenses on reasonable terms.

A Microsoft spokesperson said the company was “grateful the Commission stopped InterDigital from trying to block our products.”

InterDigital’s Chief Executive Officer William Merritt said in a statement that the decision was disappointing but would have limited impact “given the decline of the Nokia mobile device business under Microsoft’s control and its limited market position.”

InterDigital stock was however down 3 percent after hours on Friday.

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