Motorola has complained to the ITC that Microsoft is importing kit, specifically the X-Box, which infringes Motorola's patents and should thus be banned from US shores.
The infringements are already part of an ongoing legal action by Motorola, itself in response to Microsoft's actions. But bringing in the International Trade Commission brings the threat of an import ban to the table along with the hope (by Motorola) for a speedier decision.
Microsoft told Bloomberg that it remains confident in its own complaint to the ITC over Motorola's behaviour. The ITC hasn't yet said it will investigate the new complaint, only that it has been received and is being considered.
Complaining to the ITC, which is a US body despite the name, is now standard practice where arguably-infringing goods are being manufactured abroad and imported to the USA: basically everything except software. The ITC has the power to ban such imports, which would be crippling to most businesses and can focus the mind wonderfully when it comes to negotiating a settlement.
The ITC is not prone to banning imports, but it did in the case of Qualcomm who (the ITC ruled) was infringing Broadcom's patents. Despite fighting hard, and making a presidential appeal, Qualcomm's imports were halted and the company swiftly came to an agreement with Broadcom over the licence fees.
It might have been a one off, but these days everyone is hoping for similarly swift and decisive action in their own patent cases, and making the complaint is a first step towards achieving that. ®