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Judge bounces Google's complaint over Android code viewing

ITC rejects Google effort to block expert testimony in Microsoft-Motorola patent battle

A U.S. trade judge has rejected Google's move to block the testimony of a Microsoft expert witness in the latter's 10-month dispute with Motorola over patents allegedly used by Android.

On Monday, U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) Judge Theodore Essex denied Google's motion to prevent Robert Stevenson, an expert hired by Microsoft, from testifying about the Android source code at an upcoming hearing.

Last week, Google accused Microsoft of violating a confidentiality agreement struck between Microsoft, Motorola and Google in the ITC case.

Essex rejected Google's motion.

"The ALJ [Administrative Law Judge] finds no basis to discern from Google's statement whether Google made a reasonable, good-faith effort to resolve the matter with Microsoft," Essex wrote in his ruling.

Essex also pointed out that only parties in a complaint -- in this case Microsoft and Motorola -- are allowed to file a motion for sanctions like the one Google demanded. "Google has not set forth any legal support for the proposition that a non-party may move for sanctions," wrote Essex.

Google's complaint centered around Stevenson, who Microsoft allowed to review Android source code. Google said it had not been told beforehand that Stevenson would see what it called "confidential" code so "highly proprietary...that Google does not even share with its partners, such as Motorola."

In an interview last week, German patent activist and analyst Florian Mueller said that Google's attempt to block Stevenson was no more than a speed bump in the case, which he sees as potentially harmful to Android if Microsoft wins.

"I think Google is extremely afraid of the outcome of this particular ITC investigation," said Mueller last week. "If this investigation finds Motorola and, in fact, all Android devices to infringe various valid Microsoft patents, all of Google's hardware partners will have to pay royalties to Microsoft."

Microsoft filed its complaint with the ITC in October 2010, when it charged Motorola with violating several Microsoft patents in Motorola devices powered by Google's Android operating system.

On Monday, Google announced plans to acquire Motorola for $12.5 billion. Most analysts have said Google's need for a beefier patent portfolio -- necessary to deter further infringement claims against Android by the likes of Microsoft and Apple -- prompted the purchase and high price.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer , on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@computerworld.com .

See more articles by Gregg Keizer .

Read more about drm and legal issues in Computerworld's DRM and Legal Issues Topic Center.


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