Microsoft has filed an intellectual-property lawsuit against Motorola, alleging that the manufacturer's Google Android smartphones violate nine of its patents.
"The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola's Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, wrote in an Oct. 1 statement, "including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power."
Gutierrez added, "Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones."
Over the past few months, Microsoft has become more aggressive with manufacturers about its intellectual property as it relates to Android-powered phones. On April 27, HTC acknowledged that it would pay royalties to Microsoft in exchange for the use of "patented technology" in its Android-powered smartphones.
Since the launch of its IP licensing program in 2003, Microsoft has entered into more than 600 licensing agreements with companies ranging from Apple to Hewlett-Packard. Those types of licensing deals allow companies to not only create partnerships, but also avoid the sort of costly patent-infringement lawsuits sprouting like mushrooms throughout the tech industry at the moment.
But that HTC agreement, along with the Motorola lawsuit, suggests that Microsoft is taking an aggressive stance with regard to patents and open source in the smartphone arena. "We have built a significant patent portfolio in this field," Gutierrez wrote in an April statement e-mailed to eWEEK, "and we have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to ensure that competitors do not ride free on our innovations."
At the same time, he added, "We have also consistently taken a proactive approach to licensing to resolve IP infringement by other companies, and have been talking with several device manufacturers to address our concerns relative to the Android mobile platform."
Android relies on Linux kernel v2.6 for core system services such as "security, memory management, process management, network stack, and driver model," according to the Android Developers Website. Linux has been a traditional bone of contention for Microsoft; in a number of speeches, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer has suggested that the open-source platform violates a variety of patents.
When news of the HTC agreement first went public, a Microsoft spokesperson wrote in an e-mail to eWEEK, "Microsoft's policy is one of mutual respect for IP and we are committed to licensing our IP on reasonable terms." Phone manufacturers such as HTC, the spokesperson added, "are sophisticated businesses that have a track record of licensing patents to secure the necessary IP rights for their products."
Android is also slated to face off against Microsoft's upcoming Windows Phone 7 platform. That alone may be reason for Microsoft to take its aggressive intellectual-property stance against certain phone manufacturers.