Microsoft and Motorola

Things were looking grim for gaming in April, when the International Trade Commission decided that the Xbox 360 violated Motorola patents and the console's US future was in doubt. The agency hasn't necessarily reversed its decision, but it just gave Microsoft a significant (and possibly permanent) reprieve. The Commission has remanded Motorola's case back to the Administrative Law Judge that gave the initial ruling, which very nearly restarts the clock: a new ruling won't come for months, and the usual review process guarantees even more of a delay even if the decision once more works in Motorola's favor. Patent suit watcher Florian Mueller is now confident that the Xbox 360 won't face any real risk of a ban in 2012, at a minimum. If the new decision doesn't clear Microsoft outright, it still pushes any ruling past a Microsoft lawsuit's trial in mid-November, when Motorola might be blocked from attempting any ban using its standards-based patents. We've rarely seen a majority or total reversal of this kind of ITC patent dispute before it reaches the appeals stage, but there's a distinct chance of that flip happening here -- especially as the ITC is using Apple's successful dismissal of an S3 Graphics victory as the judge's new template.