We’d Rather Be Collecting Royalties On Windows Phones, But Hey, We’re Enjoying the Irony
Android may be Open, but evidently it’s not quite “free.”
According to Microsoft (MSFT), smartphones running Google’s (GOOG) mobile OS infringe its patents and companies who use it owe it royalties. Late Tuesday night the company issued a statement announcing a patent licensing deal with HTC that provides the Taiwanese cell phone “broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for HTC ‘s mobile phones running the Android mobile platform.” The agreement applies to all Android-based phones made by HTC — including Google’s Nexus One. Financial terms weren’t disclosed, nor were the patents at issue here, but sources close to the company tell News.com that Microsoft believes Android’s infringement of its IP is fairly broad, ranging from the user interface to the guts of the OS itself.
If that is indeed the case, we may soon see Microsoft negotiating similar deals with Motorola, LG, Samsung and other Android handset manufacturers. And that is very clearly the end game here according to a statement from Horacio Gutierrez, the company’s deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing.
“Microsoft has a decades-long record of investment in software platforms,” he said. “As a result, we have built a significant patent portfolio in this field, and we have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to ensure that competitors do not free ride on our innovations. 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.”
We have been talking with several device manufacturers to address our concerns relative to the Android mobile platform.
In other words, this is the first such deal covering Android, but not the last. So, who will be next?
And how ironic is it that handset manufacturers who opt to use an open Google OS must pay Microsoft to do so?
One last point worth making, here. HTC’s patent licensing deal with Microsoft comes as the company girds itself for battle with Apple (AAPL) which sued it for patent infringement last March. In that suit, Apple alleges that HTC infringed some 20 patents related to the iPhone’s graphical user interface, underlying architecture and hardware. Since Microsoft hasn’t disclosed the patents it’s licensing to HTC, it’s difficult to determine if they might provide HTC with a bit of defense in its fight with Apple. We’ll see, I guess.
Google declined comment on the deal.