Microsoft pressures Huawei over Android patents while Barnes & Noble fires back

Microsoft is reportedly trying to ink more deals in which makers of Android devices pay license fees while Barnes & Noble calls for an investigation into that practice

Microsoft is reportedly trying to ink more deals in which makers of Android devices pay license fees while Barnes & Noble calls for an investigation into that practice.

Microsoft has been pressuring Huawei to sign a patent license agreement to cover Android, according to Huawei Device Chief Marketing Officer Victor Xu. Meanwhile, Barnes & Noble has asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether Microsoft's use of its patent portfolio amounts to antitrust violations.

Huawei's Xu revealed in an interview with the BBC that discussions with Microsoft over Android licensing are "in progress" and promised that Huawei is careful to respect the intellectual property of others. However he also mentioned that the Chinese manufacturing company lays claim to more than 65,000 patents of its own that can be used to defend its interest.

TECH ARGUMENT: Patent trolls vs. innovation

As of October, Microsoft had pressured 10 Android OEMs into inking Android patent license deals, and claimed that half of all Android devices sold include a royalty paid to Redmond. Last month, Microsoft announced its 10th deal, with Taiwan's Compal Electronics. Prior to that, Microsoft had inked deals with HTC, Velocity Micro, General Dynamics, Wistron, Onkyo, Acer, ViewSonic, Samsung and Quanta, the latter of which also covered Chrome, Microsoft said. 

Many of these OEMs also make Windows products.

In the meantime, Barnes & Noble, which refused to buy licenses and is consequently being sued by Microsoft, has ratcheted up its defense. Last month, the bookseller's lawyer penned a letter to Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department's chief counsel for competition policy in its antitrust division, reports Bloomberg. In that letter, Barnes & Noble asserted, "Microsoft is embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents against manufacturers of Android devices." It then requested that the DOJ investigate possible antitrust violations from these tactics.

The trial over Microsoft's patent claims is slated for February 2012. The lawsuit, filed in March in U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington, also names device manufacturers Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec, Microsoft said. In tandem with the lawsuit, Microsoft filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC), which has the power to ban imports into the U.S. of devices that infringe patents.

Legal documents filed over this case and Microsoft's legal battle with Motorola over Android, detail about a dozen patents that Microsoft claims Android violates.

Julie Bort is the editor of Network World's Microsoft Subnet and Open Source Subnet communities. She writes the Microsoft Update and Source Seeker blogs. Follow Bort on Twitter @Julie188.

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