Barnes & Noble is asking federal regulators to probe Microsoft's Android licensing policy. Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble for patent infringement.
Barnes & Noble wants federal
regulators to investigate Microsoft's Android
licensing policy for antitrust issues,
according to Bloomberg
The bookseller had locked horns with Microsoft over the
latter's insistence that it be paid royalties for the use of Android on the
Nook e-reader device. For the past several quarters, Microsoft, insisting that
Android violates certain key patents, has offered Android device manufacturers
a choice: Pay us royalties for each unit you
make, or risk a lawsuit. So far, the company has locked 10 manufacturers into
agreements, with lawsuits in process against Barnes & Noble and Motorola
According to Bloomberg,
an Oct. 17 letter from Barnes & Noble to the Justice Department describes
Microsoft as "embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents
against manufacturers of Android devices" in order to "drive out competition
and to deter innovation in mobile devices."
The two companies' patent-infringement battle will begin
February 2012. For its part, Microsoft argues that patent-licensing agreements
are the key to industry innovation. "Over the past decade we've spent roughly
$4.5 billion to license ... patents from other
companies," Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith
wrote in an Oct. 23 note posted on the "Microsoft
on the Issues"
blog, co-authored by Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's
corporate vice president and deputy general counsel. "These have given us the
opportunity to build on the innovations of others in a responsible manner that
respects their IP rights."
Barnes & Noble recently unveiled the Nook tablet, a
7-inch multimedia device running Android, which will compete head-on this
holiday season against Amazon's Kindle Fire.
Neither Barnes & Noble nor Amazon releases sales numbers
for their respective e-readers, although it's generally assumed that the Kindle
maintains a healthy market-share lead over the Nook. Last year's Nook Color was
seen as a strong competitor to the grayscale Kindle. The Kindle Fire, which
retails for $199 and will ship later this month, negated that advantage; it's
also cheaper than the Nook tablet.
Whether the Microsoft lawsuit complicates Barnes &
Noble's attempts to market the Nook tablet remains to be seen, but it's
doubtlessly an added complication the bookseller didn't need heading into the
holiday season. For its part, though, Barnes & Noble seems determined to
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