Microsoft, Foxconn Sign Android Patent Agreement

Microsoft inks an Android patent deal with yet another technology company. This time, it snagged the world's largest contract manufacturer.

Hon Hai, Foxconn's Taiwanese parent company, and Microsoft announced April 16 that they have entered into a patent-licensing agreement covering devices that run Google's Android mobile operating system and Chrome OS.

Specifics are being kept under wraps, but Microsoft did reveal that Hon Hai would be paying royalties to the software titan. To date, Microsoft has entered into similar Android-related patent deals with several notable device makers, including Samsung, LG, HTC and Acer. On Feb. 21, camera maker Nikon joined the list.

However, Foxconn, whose factories pump out devices like Apple's iPhone and iPad, is in a league of its own, company officials implied.

"We are pleased that the list of companies benefiting from Microsoft's Android licensing program now includes the world's largest contract manufacturer, Hon Hai," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said in a statement issued by the company. "By licensing both brand-name companies and their contract manufacturers, we have successfully increased the overall effectiveness and global reach of the program."

Hon Hai sits on a sizable patent library of its own, with more than 54,000 patents worldwide, Samuel Fu, director of the Intellectual Property Department at Hon Hai, said in a statement.

"We recognize and respect the importance of international efforts that seek to protect intellectual property," Fu said. "The licensing agreement with Microsoft represents those efforts and our continued support of international trade agreements that facilitate implementation of effective patent protection."

When it comes to Android patents, it turns out that Foxconn shares a bit of history in court with Microsoft.

On March 21, 2011, Microsoft filed suit against Barnes & Noble concerning the bookseller's Android-based Nook e-reader. The suit also named contract manufacturers Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec.

Gutierrez wrote at the time, "The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual-property rights. To facilitate that, we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers."

Legal proceedings were halted when Microsoft and Barnes & Noble teamed up to form a joint venture called Nook Media.

Foxconn has emerged as the tech industry's go-to contract manufacturer. Its client roster includes Apple, Nokia, Sony and Lenovo, to name a few. Reports have also pointed to the company as a potential supplier for the oft-rumored smartphones from Microsoft and Amazon.

But the company's rise has been marred by tragedy.

The company gained notoriety during a string of suicides at Foxconn facilities in China, which gripped the tech industry and garnered major media attention after the first "iPhone suicide" made headlines.

Following a wave of suicide attempts that hit the electronics manufacturing giant in China, Apple sent executives, including its then-Chief Operating Officer Tim Cook, to audit the firm and investigate claims of harsh working conditions. Foxconn incorporated Apple's recommendations for improving the factory working environment, according to the 2011 Apple Supplier Responsibility Progress Report.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...