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Google claims Microsoft improperly showed Android code to expert

Enters Microsoft-Motorola patent fray, says Microsoft violated confidentiality agreement

August 11, 2011 01:32 PM ET

Computerworld - Google yesterday asked the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) to block the testimony of a Microsoft expert witness in the latter's 10-month-old action against Motorola over patents allegedly used by Android.

In a motion filed with the ITC Wednesday, Google asked that Robert Stevenson, an expert hired by Microsoft, be barred from testifying about the Android source code at an upcoming hearing because Microsoft violated a confidentiality agreement struck between Microsoft, Motorola and Google.

According to Google, Microsoft did not ask permission before showing Stevenson the Android source code.

"The protective order governing confidentiality in this investigation explicitly requires that Microsoft disclose to Google any consultant or expert seeking access to Google confidential business information or highly confidential source code before [emphasis in original] allowing a consultant or expert to review such information so that Google has an opportunity to object prior to disclosure," read Google's complaint.

A protective order in the case restricts access to the Android source code, limiting the number of people who can review the code and requiring that Microsoft and Motorola "give prior written notice" to Google before showing the source code to a technical advisor. Google is to have 10 days to object.

Microsoft did not do that, Google alleged, as it moved to prevent Stevenson from testifying at the evidentiary hearing slated for later this month.

"The confidential source code improperly provided to Dr. Stevenson is highly proprietary source code that Google does not even share with its partners, such as Motorola," Google said.

Microsoft submitted its complaint against Motorola with the ITC last October -- and filed a lawsuit in federal court at the same time -- charging the smartphone maker with violating several Microsoft patents in its Android devices.

"We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market," said Horacio Gutierrez, a Microsoft deputy general counsel, in a statement Oct. 1, 2010. "Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones."

Yesterday's move by Google was little more than delaying tactic, said patent activist and analyst Florian Mueller today. Mueller writes the FOSS Patents blog, where he regularly posts analyses of the ongoing patent wars.

"This is a secondary theater of war," said Mueller in an email interview. "It's about procedural tactics, maybe hoping that this could cause a delay, but whatever the outcome may be, it won't change anything about the substance of this case."

He has a point: Microsoft was granted permission to show the Android source code to others besides Stevenson, according to Google's motion before the ITC, so it will not be bereft of expert testimony.



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