Microsoft has filed a lawsuit which claims US Customs officials failed to block imports of Motorola Mobility phones after the agency's ear was bent by Google in a series of secret meetings.
The lawsuit was filed on Friday, according to Bloomberg News, and accuses the US Customers and Border Protection (CBP) Agency of failing to enforce an International Trade Commission ban on the import of Motorola Mobility devices which violate some of Microsoft's patents.
Microsoft claims that the CBP held secret meetings with Motorola Mobility's owner Google in April which caused the agency to decide in June to continue to let Motorola Mobility phones into the country, going against the ITC's May 2012 decision.
"Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review, Microsoft's Deputy General Counsel David Howard is reported to have said in a statement. "Here Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions."
The International Trade Commission order is in effect until April 2018, when Microsoft's patents expires. As is typical of these types of cases, the Microsoft patents in question are as broad as Steve Ballmer's ambition is large, ranging from one for "Generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device" which was filed in 1998, to one for a "Context sensitive menu system/menu behavior" which was filed in 1996, to the more recent "Method and system for managing changes to a contact database" filed in 2002.
In a statement emailed to The Register Google said "US Customs appropriately rejected Microsoft's effort to broaden its patent claims to block Americans from using a wide range of legitimate calendar functions, like scheduling meetings, on their mobile phones. We're confident that the court will agree."
Microsoft hopes to compel CBP, via a court order, to enforce the import ban.
"The only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from CBP’s pattern of conduct is that CBP will not enforce the commission's exclusion order absent a court order compelling it to do so," Microsoft is reported to have said in the filing. "CBP has repeatedly allowed Motorola to evade that order based on secret presentations that CBP has refused to share with Microsoft."
Apple is also embroiled in a patent dispute that could see an ITC embargo come in against imports of its older iPhone 4 and iPad models, after Samsung convinced the trade body that they infringed on one of its patents.
At the time of writing Microsoft had not responded to requests for further information by The Register. The irony of all this is that Google acquired Motorola to give it a strategic warchest of patents to protect it from just this sort of court case. ®