Microsoft suing US Customs for not enforcing ban on Motorola devices

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As Apple fights to stay a recently-imposed import ban on some of its iOS devices, Microsoft is trying to push one forward. The Redmond company is suing the US Customs and Border Protection office for refusing to enforce an ITC order to block imports of Motorola phones.

In May 2012, the US International Trade Commission issued a ban on Motorola devices for infringing a Microsoft patent on syncing calendar events with other computers. The suit alleges Google has held secret meetings with US Customs, convincing the office to ignore the ban…

Bloomberg reports:

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection, after having secret meetings with Google, continued to let the Motorola Mobility mobile phones enter the country even though Google has done nothing to remove the feature at the heart of the ITC case, Microsoft said in the complaint. The case illustrates whatLexmark International Inc. (LXK) and Lutron Electronics Co. in May called an “increasingly ineffective and unpredictable enforcement” of import bans imposed by the trade agency.

“Customs has a clear responsibility to carry out ITC decisions, which are reached after a full trial and rigorous legal review,” Microsoft Deputy General Counsel David Howard said in a statement. “Here Customs repeatedly ignored its obligation and did so based on secret discussions.”

The report goes on to say that the ‘secret’ meetings were held in April, with Microsoft not aware of their existence until after the June 24 Customs decision allowing the continued importation of Motorola phones. But it sounds like this behavior has become par for the course.

“Once the import bans are ordered, it’s common for both patent owners and importers to lobby Customs and neither side is told what the other is saying for fear of exposing trade secrets, lawyers involved in ITC cases said in March.”

Regardless, Microsoft is still upset with the ITC’s conduct, saying in the filing that the only conclusion that can reasonably be drawn from the CBP’s pattern of conduct is that it will not enforce the commission’s exclusion order unless there’s a court order compelling it to do so.

Google, on the other hand, unsurprisingly agrees with US Customs actions, saying it “appropriately rejected Microsoft’s effort to broaden its patent claims to block users from using a wide range of common calendar functions, like scheduling meetings, on their mobile phones.”

We’ll be keeping an eye on how this plays out, as Apple faces a similar import ban following an ITC ruling that it’s violated one of Samsung’s patents. The ban is scheduled to start August 5, unless it’s overturned by US President Barrack Obama or put on hold pending appeal.