Microsoft, Nikon Ink Latest Android Patent Deal

The Japanese camera maker joins a growing list of technology companies that pay royalties to Microsoft under an Android patent agreement.

Microsoft signed another patent licensing deal related to the Android operating system, this time with camera maker Nikon.

Under the terms of the agreement, Nikon will pay royalties to Microsoft for "broad coverage" under the latter's patent portfolio. The companies are keeping the specifics under wraps, but Microsoft did reveal that the deal affects some Nikon cameras that run Android, Google's mobile operating system.

"Microsoft and Nikon have a long history of collaboration, and this agreement further demonstrates the value that both companies place on responsible IP licensing," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing, in a statement issued by the company.

"Microsoft is proud to align with a leader in the digital camera industry to license Android technology for the benefit of Nikon's customers," added Keafer.

Nikon joins a long and growing list of electronics makers that have signed Android patent deals with the software giant. "Microsoft's specific patent licensing program for Android device makers has resulted in signed license agreements with numerous companies including Samsung, LG, HTC, Acer and Barnes & Noble," noted Microsoft.

While last on that list, the Barnes & Noble deal ranks first in the legal fireworks department.

Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble, Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec over the Nook e-reader in 2011. Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel for Intellectual Property and Licensing, laid out his company's case.

"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," wrote Gutierrez.

According to Gutierrez, Barnes & Noble's refusal to come to the bargaining table forced Microsoft to involve the courts. "We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations."

Barnes & Noble countersued, but the matter was settled when Microsoft invested $300 million to form a joint venture with the bookseller called Nook Media. The deal, first announced in April 2012, resulted in a royalty-bearing license that covers Nook e-reader and tablets.

In recent years, Microsoft's IP licensing program has been picking up speed. The list of firms that have entered into Android-related patent agreements include Onkyo, Velocity Micro, Viewsonic and Compal, a Taiwanese original design manufacturer (ODM).

In 2011, the company reported having entered into 600 licensing agreements. Today, that number has nearly doubled.

"Since Microsoft launched its IP licensing program in December 2003, the company has entered into more than 1,100 licensing agreements and continues to develop programs that make it possible for customers, partners and competitors to access its IP portfolio," revealed Microsoft.

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...