Could the Xbox 360 be banned in the USA?

It’s common knowledge there are a range of patent wars ongoing in technology right now (which I’ve previously written about here).  One of those patent wars is between Motorola and Microsoft over the Xbox 360 console – and boy, it’s getting hot.  My friend Florian Mueller of Foss Patents told me about it and it seems so interesting I thought I’d write a quick summary based on his hard work.
The story so far:
The origin of the patent battle between Motorola and Microsoft is lost in the mists of time beyond 2010, but for our purposes it started with Motorola filing a complaint against Microsoft at the US International Trade Commission complaining of alleged infringement of Motorola patents by Microsoft in the Xbox 360.      Florian has the details, but the key point is this: if the ITC upholds the complaint, it has the power to import ban Xbox 360s.
While that was rumbling on, Motorola became involved in a whole further series of patent infringement complaints with other tech companies.  The European Commission grew unhappy with these activity (following complaints from Apple among others) and in April 2012 it announced it would comence two antitrust investigations into Motorola.
April 2012: the ITC made an initial ruling that Microsoft has infringed four Motorola patents via the Xbox 360.  Microsoft seemed almost certain to fight against that initial ruling.
May 2012: the ITC has now asked for public input on how any Xbox import ban would affect the public (with submissions due in by 8 June 2012).  In the meantime, both Microsoft and Motorola have both apparently been making further submissions to the ITC on the matter.One brief addition: there is also a related battle ongoing as to whether Motorola can ban the Xbox 360 being imported in Germany.

(That’s a very brief summary of a complicated matter and I recommend you read Foss Patents for more detail.)
We’re still at a relatively early stage in this matter and there is still a way to go before there is a formal decision.  BUT, it’s clearly a serious matter for both Microsoft and Motorola, because even the possibility that the Xbox 360 could be even temporarily import banned in the USA would be enormously important in their legal fight, as well as for the wider games industry.
It might never happen of course: we simply don’t know whether ultimately the ITC or a court would rule on Motorola’s or Microsoft’s side.  Or maybe they’ll settle.  But it’s worth bearing in mind this isn’t unprecedented: LG was able to obtain a partial import ban on the Sony PlayStation 3 in Europe last year (even though it didn’t last).  We’ll have to sit tight and see what happens…
In the meantime, the case just emphasises again the importance of patents, and patent infringement lawsuits, to the wider games industry (I’ve written a quick guide to patents in games here).  Like them or loathe them, they’re here to stay for the foreseeable future…
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