Microsoft Nabs Acer, Viewsonic in Android Patent Deals

By Nicholas Kolakowski  |  Posted 2011-09-08 Print this article Print

Microsoft has tied Acer and Viewsonic into royalty-paying patent deals, a continuation of its longstanding Android strategy.

Microsoft is continuing its campaign of tying Android device manufacturers into licensing agreements, this time nabbing two significant prizes: Acer and Viewsonic.

The agreement between Microsoft and Viewsonic stipulates the latter will pay royalties for its tablets and mobile phones running Google Android or Chrome. The one with Acer stipulates payments for tablets and smartphones running Android. No exact financial terms were disclosed by Microsoft.

"We are pleased that Acer is taking advantage of our industrywide licensing program established to help companies address Android's IP issues," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, wrote in a Sept. 8 statement. "This agreement is an example of how industry leaders can reach commercially reasonable arrangements that address intellectual property."

Microsoft has made no secret of its willingness to sue those Android device manufacturers who refuse to enter into a royalty agreement. Both Motorola and Barnes & Noble chose to fight out their respective battles in court rather than submit.

"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 posted by the open-source Android operating system and other open source operating systems," read Barnes & Noble's counterclaim to Microsoft's lawsuit, filed April 25 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle. "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."

The bookseller's filing also mentioned that both HTC and Amazon had entered into patent-licensing deals with Redmond. Throughout 2011, Microsoft entered into agreements with a variety of smaller Android manufacturers, including Onkyo, Velocity Micro and General Dynamics Itronix.

Microsoft claims the Android platform infringes on a number of its patents. The interesting twist in the latest agreements is Microsoft's citing of Chrome as violating its intellectual property. Whether or not that represents a harbinger of a more widespread attack against Google's software and assets remains to be seen.

Google recently acquired Motorola Mobility for $12.5 billion. Whether that will give the search engine giant the intellectual property cover it needs to more effectively defend its smartphone platform is also an open question. Meanwhile, Microsoft will almost certainly continue to pursue its own aggressive strategy with regard to Android.

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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.

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