Microsoft and Samsung have entered into an Android licensing agreement. Considering Samsung's size and Android portfolio, this is a very big deal.
Microsoft has entered into a cross-licensing agreement with
Samsung, in which the latter agrees to pay royalties for its Android tablets
and smartphones. Financial terms were undisclosed. A Microsoft-issued press
release indicated that Samsung would also collaborate on development and
marketing for Windows Phone.
Over the past several quarters, Microsoft has engaged in an
aggressive license-or-lawsuit strategy with regard to Android, entering into
agreements with several companies. It has also launched intellectual property
lawsuits at those companies with whom it couldn't come to terms over Android
"The agreement also gives both companies greater patent
coverage relating to each other's technologies, and opens the door to a deeper
partnership in the development of new phones for the Windows Phone platform,"
Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's general counsel and deputy
general counsel, wrote in a coauthored Sept. 28 posting on the Microsoft
on the Issues Website. "Today's agreement with Samsung means that the top
two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired
licenses to Microsoft's patent portfolio."
That other handset manufacturer is HTC. Motorola Mobility,
another major producer of Android devices, is currently locked in a bitter
courtroom dispute with Microsoft over alleged patent infringements; it remains
an open question whether Motorola's recently announced acquisition by Google will
affect that legal battle.
Both authors spun Microsoft's licensing strategy in a
positive light. "These agreements prove that licensing works," they wrote.
"They show what can be achieved when companies sit down and address
intellectual property issues in a responsible manner. The rapid growth of the
technology industry, and its continued fast pace of innovation are founded on
mutual respect for IP." In turn, they added, intellectual property
"incentivizes" research and development.
However, at least one pundit wants to downplay Google's
ability to protect Android manufacturers from lawsuits or licensing fees.
"By taking a royalty-bearing license, Samsung recognizes
that Android has intellectual property problems that must be resolved with
license fees," patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in a Sept.
28 posting on his blog, "and reduces to absurdity the idea that Google is
going to be able to protect Android after the acquisition of Motorola
Mobility." Since Google announced that acquisition, he noted, Microsoft has
signed three more Android manufacturers into licensing agreements.
Nicholas Kolakowski on Twitter
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.