Microsoft accuses U.S. Customs of ignoring ITC import ban on Motorola devices

Microsoft is crying foul and arguing that the U.S. Customs officials are letting in Motorola hardware they should otherwise be banning pursuant to an ITC order.

There is certainly no shortage of IP cases being brought before the ITC as tech companies continue to look for ways to outmanuever the competition and protect their intellectual property. What's interesting, though, is that even when the ITC rules in favor of one party, implementing an ITC order may not be as clear cut as it may seem.

To wit, Microsoft was on the winning end of an ITC ruling that saw Motorola smartphones subject to an import ban. Microsoft, however, is crying foul and arguing that the U.S. Customs officials are letting in Motorola hardware they should otherwise be banning. Even more interesting is that Microsoft alleges that this is the result of Google having secret meetings with U.S. Customs agents.

Bloomberg reports:

The U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington issued the import ban in May 2012 after deciding that Motorola Mobility devices infringed a Microsoft patent for a way mobile phones synchronize calendar events with other computers. Microsoft’s lawsuit, filed yesterday in Washington, says that order isn’t being enforced.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after having secret meetings with Google, continued to let the Motorola Mobility mobile phones enter the country even though Google has done nothing to remove the feature at the heart of the ITC case, Microsoft said in the complaint. The case illustrates what Lexmark International Inc. (LXK) and Lutron Electronics Co. in May called an “increasingly ineffective and unpredictable enforcement” of import bans imposed by the trade agency.

“Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said in a statement. “Here Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions.”

Motorola Mobility convinced the agency that the order didn’t apply to syncing through Google rather than Microsoft servers, and to give it a grace period to allow changes to take effect. Both of those requests had previously been rejected by the ITC, according to Redmond, Washington-based Microsoft.

This is somewhat related to Apple, albeit periphally, to the extent that Apple has an impending import ban of its own which will affect older generation iPhones and iPads.

Bloomberg has the full scoop over here.

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