Microsoft is continuing its pressure on Android device manufacturers to enter into a royalty agreement or face a lawsuit.
Microsoft is serious about this whole Android licensing
The company has entered into yet another patent agreement,
this one with Onkyo Corp., which manufactures
tablets running Android. So far this week, Microsoft has entered into two other
agreements over Android licensing, with Velocity Micro and General Dynamics
"This agreement and similar agreements recently announced
evidence the momentum and success of our licensing program," Horacio Gutierrez,
corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property
and Licensing at Microsoft, wrote in a June 30 statement.
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. Microsoft claims
the Android platform infringes on a number of Microsoft-held patents.
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. 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
"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."
Motorola also elected to fight back against Microsoft, after
the latter filed a patent-infringement suit in October 2010. "The patents at
issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android
smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone experience," Gutierrez wrote in a statement at the time. Motorola
retaliated with an intellectual-property complaint of its own.
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.