Legal battles can sometimes make strange bedfellows. Microsoft announced today that they've filed an antitrust suit against Motorola Mobility in the European Union charging that the company (which is being purchased by Google) is abusing the standard-essential patents that it owns. Apple also filed a complaint a few days ago on the same topic -- that Motorola Mobility is attempting to illegally block sales of others company's products by leveraging patents that should be offered with Fair, Reasonable, And Non-Descriminatory (FRAND) licensing.
Standard-essential patents are patents held by companies like Motorola Mobility that become part of industry standards like Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11n, for example) and the H.264/MPEG-4 AVC standard. Since they're part of industry standards, companies are obligated to use the patented intellectual property in creating their products. If the patent owner attempts to coerce companies to either stop using technology that is part of a standard or to pay exorbitant licensing fees, lawsuits like those filed by Apple and Microsoft are the result.
Dave Heiner, vice-president and deputy general counsel for Microsoft's Corporate Standards and Antitrust Group, was quoted as saying that "Motorola has broken its promise. Motorola is on a path to use standard essential patents to kill video on the Web, and Google as its new owner doesn't seem to be willing to change course."
Florian Mueller, patent expert at FOSS Patents, believes that Microsoft joining Apple with a lawsuit against Motorola Mobility will improve the odds that the European Commission will investigate Motorola's alleged abuses of FRAND patents in Europe.