Motorola Goes Retro on Design, But Not on Its IP Protection

Dan Bestor oversees patents for Motorola Solutions, which recently made headlines for bringing back the most famous cell phone of the early 2000s

It was 2007, and you either had a Motorola Razr cell phone or you didn’t have a cell phone. At least it felt that way.

The first mobile device to become a status symbol, long before the introduction of the iPhone (or any smartphone, for that matter), the Razr boasted a sharp and sleek design that made it seem like reality had finally caught up with the movies. There were myriad colors to choose from—even a hot pink version for the more conspicuous consumers among us. The phone’s lit-up keypad looked straight out of a Star Trek movie. It just looked cool.

Motorola’s V3 Razr sold more than 130 million units, the most for any clamshell phone ever. It was everywhere. And then, just like that, the world moved on.

More than a decade after its high-water mark, Motorola’s most famous success has found its way back into popular culture as well as the marketplace. The clamshell Razr is back, this time in 5G. The Motorola Razr 5G is reminiscent of its forebears, but with quite a bit extra going on under the screen. The foldable smartphone is an alternative for those who long for the good old days of the oughts but still need the modern functionality and benefits a smartphone provides. Those who truly want to return to 2007 can engage a software easter egg “Retro Razr” mode that recreates the original Razr menu screen.

Motorola’s enduring Razr IP is just one of many products under the purview of Dan Bestor, director of patent operations. The company’s long legacy means an endless list of data networks, mobile network infrastructure, and consumer technology patents to protect and develop. Bestor has been with Motorola Solutions since 2011 but has been active in IP law since 2003. The attorney’s technology focus runs deep; he worked as a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard and a computer engineer at IBM prior to attending law school. Bestor currently divides his time between leading an in-house patent legal team and preparing and prosecuting patents.

One of Motorola’s most recent prosecutions over its patents involves a suit against Chinese manufacturer Hytera’s alleged infringement of two-way radios, base stations, repeaters, and dispatch systems.

“We believe Hytera continues to infringe Motorola Solutions’ patents, including with its new i-Series products, in an attempt to illegally profit from our intellectual property,” Mark Hacker, general counsel and chief administrative officer of Motorola Solutions, said in a statement. “Due to our successful litigation to date, Hytera removed three critical features covered by our patents. With these proprietary technologies removed, we believe the i-Series is already a vastly inferior product that is unable to meet customers’ business and mission-critical needs. We look forward to building on our success in holding Hytera accountable for its additional infringement with this case.”

Motorola also has a separate trade secret theft and copyright infringement case against Hytera. These cases most assuredly keep the IP legal team on its toes—and relying on its patent director for skilled oversight and Razr-sharp direction.

When a Global Mobile Network Isn’t Enough

Mobile carriers are constantly battling it out for cellular network supremacy, but a new potential battleground for these claims has arisen that is out of this world—literally. In 2022, NASA and partners will install the first-ever cellular network on the moon.

While visitors will be disappointed to find their 5G unavailable, the LTE 4G connection should be enough for the future lunar residents to FaceTime to their heart’s content. More specifically, it should better enable voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data exchange, and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.

Fortunately, the deployment won’t require astronauts scaling lunar telephone poles. The new network will self-configure and provide a vital first step for future long-term living for Selenian enthusiasts.