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 licensing.
"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.