Microsoft Files Antitrust Suit Against InterDigital in Patent Feud

InterDigital Inc has violated US antitrust law by failing to keep its promise to fairly license its technology considered essential to mobile phone communications, Microsoft Corp said in a lawsuit on Thursday.

The complaint against InterDigital, filed in federal court in Wilmington, Delaware, deepens a long-standing fight over patent licensing between the two companies.

It comes as the US International Trade Commission is set to rule this month on whether Microsoft smartphones should be banned from being imported into the United States for infringing two of InterDigital’s patents.

Wilmington is the home base of InterDigital, which makes money through the licensing of patents.

The lawsuit concerns patents considered to be critical to technologies that may be widely adopted in an industry. Owners of these kinds of patents typically commit to offering them to competitors at a reasonable rate and on fair terms.

Microsoft alleged InterDigital’s “abusive licensing practices” over its patents that are essential for companies to make cellular devices violate federal anti-monopoly laws.

InterDigital “falsely promised” to license these patents on reasonable terms so they would be accepted as industry standards but then charged exorbitant rates, Microsoft said in the complaint.

A spokesman for the Redmond, Washington-based software giant said this “violates its commitments and hurts consumers and competition.”

A representative for InterDigital had no comment.

According to the complaint, InterDigital is also using the prospect of an import ban to coerce Microsoft into paying the price InterDigital wants for access to its technology.

In April, an ITC judge said Microsoft infringed two of InterDigital’s patents related to moderating a mobile phone’s power to reduce signal interference, and recommended that Microsoft’s devices be blocked from import.

The full commission is scheduled to make a final ruling on the matter later this month. Companies often sue at the ITC to win an import ban and in federal court to win damages.

The ITC judge also said there was evidence Microsoft had engaged in “reverse patent holdup,” a situation where a company uses technology covered by a patent but refuses to pay for a license. The judge said Microsoft has refused to negotiate with InterDigital in a meaningful way.

In the new lawsuit, Microsoft said that because of InterDigital’s “monopolistic conduct,” the court should triple any damages it awards, and order InterDigital to stop enforcing its patents

Microsoft to Launch New Lumia Phones and Surface Pro 4 in October

Microsoft is reportedly set to launch two new Lumia smartphones, the Surface Pro 4 tablet, and the Microsoft Band 2 at a media event in October. This ties in with a report from last month as well, which claimed that Microsoft could launch its new smartphones at an October event rather than at IFA 2015 in September.

Rumours of two new Windows Phone (Windows 10 Mobile) smartphones have been circulating since past few months. Codenamed Cityman and Talkman — believed to be the Lumia 950 and Lumia 950XL — the handsets are reported to offer high-end hardware modules. Chinese website WPDang reports (also corroborated by The Verge) that Microsoft will officially take the wraps off the two smartphones at the event.

The company is also expected to utilise the event to also release the next generation Surface tablet. The reports noted that the Surface Pro 4 could be launched by the company. Sadly, not much is known about the tablet at the moment except for the possibility of it integrating a fingerprint sensor on the Surface keyboard. Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 was launched in 2014. The device has sold well and was also well-received by enthusiasts. The company launched the Surface 3, a smaller and less-powerful variant of the Surface Pro 3, in March this year.

The Microsoft Band is also said to receive a major overhaul, as per the reports. The company is expected to launch the Microsoft Band 2 at the event. Not much about it is known either. The company had troubles meeting the high demand for its fitness tracker last year, perhaps this time it has better plans to go about it.

If Microsoft indeed launches the two handsets, they will be the two most powerful Windows Phone (Windows 10 Mobile) handsets in the market. As per past reports, the Lumia 950 (Talkman) is said to have a 5.2-inch WQHD (1440×2560) display. It is said to be powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor with 3GB of RAM. Other features of the device include 32GB of internal storage with support for microSD card, and 20-megapixel and 5-megapixel camera sensors, and USB Type C charger. The Lumia 950 XL (Cityman) is said to have a 5.7-inch QWHD display and Snapdragon 810 chipset, with most other features largely being same as the Lumia 950.

With Microsoft significantly toning down its mobile phone efforts, these two Lumia smartphones hold the fate of the future of company’s mobile operating system. If these too also fail to garner traction from users, it could be the last nail in the coffin of Windows Phone (Windows 10 Mobile).

You will want to take the timing of the event with a pinch of salt, as several reports suggest that Microsoft would launch the two Lumia devices at IFA 2015, which begins on September 2. It will be interesting to see how things pan out, and how much truth is in these rumors.