Mobile-device patent disputes heat up

Upcoming cases could throw a wrench in Google and HP’s plans

As the lucrative smartphone market continues to grow, technology companies are paying close attention to upcoming cases concerning mobile-device patents.

Today, the International Trade Commission (ITC) will hear a case in which Microsoft Corp. alleges that Motorola Inc.’s smartphones, which operate on Google Inc.’s Android operating system, infringe Microsoft patents. A decision in favor of Microsoft could block imports of Motorola phones running Android.

The ITC’s ruling is particularly important to Google, which last week agreed to pay $12.5 billion for Motorola. The acquisition will allow Google to obtain a group of patents that will help deter litigation against its Android system.

In a separate case, patent-holding company Acacia Research Corp. has accused smartphone makers Apple, AT&T Mobility Inc., LG Electronics Inc., Motorola, Nokia Corp. and Research in Motion Ltd. of patent infringement. According to Acacia CEO Paul Ryan, some of the patents involved in the litigation could affect Hewlett-Packard Co.’s plans to discontinue its mobile-devices operations and further develop its personal-computer business while still using its mobile-devices operating software, which Acacia claims to own.

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