Microsoft has locked yet another Android manufacturer into a patent-licensing agreement, the ninth in four months and the 10th Android-related one overall.
The agreement with Compal, an original design manufacturer (ODM) based in Taiwan, covers smartphones and tablets running Android. Compal is a significant company, with annual revenues totaling some $28 billion.
“Today’s announcement means that companies accounting for over half of all Android devices have now entered into patent license agreements with Microsoft,” Microsoft Executive Vice President and General Counsel Brad Smith wrote in an Oct. 23 note posted on the “Microsoft on the Issues” blog, co-authored by Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s corporate vice president and deputy general counsel. “Amidst continuing clamor about uncertainty and litigation relating to smartphone patents, we’re putting in place a series of agreements that are reasonable and fair to both sides.”
That “continuing clamor” includes Google’s claims that Microsoft’s licensing campaign is glorified extortion. Thanks to agreements with major smartphone and tablet manufacturers like Samsung and HTC, Microsoft is earning significant revenues from software developed by Google, a fact that could irritate Mountain View executives to an extreme.
For its part, Microsoft insists that patent-licensing agreements are key for industry innovation. “Over the past decade we’ve spent roughly $4.5 billion to license in patents from other companies,” read the counsels’ blog posting. “These have given us the opportunity to build on the innovations of others in a responsible manner than respects their IP rights.”
For “those who continue to protest that the smartphone patent thicket is too difficult to navigate,” they added, “it’s past time to wake up.”
However, not all Android manufacturers have quietly submitted to a Microsoft license. Motorola Mobility, in the process of being acquired by Google, voted to battle out the issue in court rather than pay Redmond a fee for its Android devise. Barnes & Noble, which makes the Android-based Nook e-reader, also opted to push back against Microsoft’s licensing attempts with its own lawsuit.
The added irony is that the money Microsoft earns from Android licenses could, theoretically, be outpacing revenues from Windows Phone, which so far has failed to attract a customer base capable of challenging Apple’s and Google’s smartphone dominance. Microsoft hopes a host of new Windows Phone device manufacturers, combined with a wide-ranging “Mango” update with new tweaks and features, will allow it to gain some marketplace traction.