Microsoft has entered into yet another patent-licensing agreement with an Android device manufacturer, this time with Wistron, which crafts tablets and other devices.
Under the terms of the agreement, Wistron will pay Microsoft undisclosed royalties for its patents in use. “Our Wistron deal today makes for four Android patent license agreements in nine days,” Brad Smith, Microsoft’s general counsel, tweeted on July 5. “No need to calculate pi to figure that one out.”
Google, which developed Android, supposedly bid $3.14159 billion-the first few digits of Pi-for the Nortel wireless and mobile patents eventually seized by a consortium of rivals including Microsoft.
Last week, Microsoft entered into Android patent-licensing agreements with three smaller manufacturers: Onkyo, Velocity Micro and General Dynamics Itronix. Microsoft claims the Android platform infringes on a number of Microsoft-held patents.
For several quarters, Microsoft has pursued a stark strategy with regard to manufacturers of Android devices such as smartphones and tablets: Pay royalties, or face a patent-infringement lawsuit. Some companies have chosen to embrace the royalty agreement option. In April 2010, HTC announced that it had agreed to pay Microsoft in exchange for the use of “patented technology” in its Android-powered smartphones. In the wake of that, rumors circulated that Microsoft was actively seeking similar arrangements with other unnamed companies.
However, other Android manufacturers have been willing to put up a fight. Motorola has retaliated to a Microsoft patent-infringement suit with an intellectual-property complaint of its own. And Barnes & Noble, whose Nook e-reader uses Android, filed a countersuit against Microsoft after the latter sued it for patent infringement.
The bookseller’s counterclaim, filed April 25 with the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington at Seattle, described Microsoft as repeatedly arguing that its patent portfolio would “entirely preclude the use of Android Operating System by the Nook,” and mentions that both HTC and Amazon have entered into patent-licensing deals with Redmond.
“Microsoft is misusing these patents as part of a scheme to try to eliminate or marginalize the competition to its own Windows Phone 7 mobile device operating system posed by the open source Android operating system and other open source operating systems,” it read at one point. “Microsoft’s conduct directly harms both competition for and consumers of eReaders, smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile electronic devices, and renders Microsoft’s patents unenforceable.”
Despite Microsoft’s recent string of victories over Android licensing, the company still faces an uphill battle against the platform in the smartphone arena, where its own Windows Phone trails devices running Android by a substantial customer margin.