Microsoft continued its recent streak of Android licensing agreements with Wistron, a small manufacturer that uses the software platform.
Microsoft has entered into yet another
patent-licensing agreement with an Android device manufacturer, this time with
Wistron, which crafts tablets and other devices.
Under the terms of the agreement,
Wistron will pay Microsoft undisclosed royalties for its patents in use. "Our
Wistron deal today makes for four Android patent license agreements in nine
days," Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, tweeted on July
5. "No need to calculate pi to figure that one out."
Google, which developed Android, supposedly bid $3.14159 billion-the first few
digits of Pi-for the Nortel wireless and mobile patents eventually seized by a
consortium of rivals including Microsoft.
Last week, Microsoft entered into
Android patent-licensing agreements with three smaller manufacturers: Onkyo,
Velocity Micro and General Dynamics Itronix. Microsoft claims the Android
platform infringes on a number of Microsoft-held patents.
For several quarters, Microsoft has
pursued a stark strategy with regard to manufacturers of Android devices such
as smartphones and tablets: Pay royalties, or face a patent-infringement
lawsuit. Some companies have chosen to embrace the royalty agreement option. In
April 2010, HTC announced that it had agreed to pay Microsoft in exchange for
the use of "patented technology" in its Android-powered smartphones. In the
wake of that, rumors circulated that Microsoft was actively seeking similar
arrangements with other unnamed companies.
However, other Android manufacturers
have been willing to put up a fight. Motorola has retaliated to a Microsoft
patent-infringement suit with an intellectual-property complaint of its own.
And Barnes & Noble, whose Nook e-reader uses Android, filed a countersuit
against Microsoft after the latter sued it for patent infringement.
The bookseller's counterclaim, filed April 25 with the U.S. District Court for the Western
District of Washington at Seattle, described Microsoft as repeatedly arguing
that its patent portfolio would "entirely preclude the use of Android Operating
System by the Nook," and mentions that both HTC and Amazon have entered into
patent-licensing deals with Redmond.
"Microsoft is misusing these patents as
part of a scheme to try to eliminate or marginalize the competition to its own
Windows Phone 7 mobile device operating system posed by the open source Android
operating system and other open source operating systems," it read at one
point. "Microsoft's conduct directly harms both competition for and consumers
of eReaders, smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile electronic devices,
and renders Microsoft's patents unenforceable."
Despite Microsoft's recent string of
victories over Android licensing, the company still faces an uphill battle
against the platform in the smartphone arena, where its own Windows Phone
trails devices running Android by a substantial customer margin.
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Nicholas Kolakowski is a staff editor at eWEEK, covering Microsoft and other companies in the enterprise space, as well as evolving technology such as tablet PCs. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, Playboy, WebMD, AARP the Magazine, AutoWeek, Washington City Paper, Trader Monthly, and Private Air. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.