Microsoft licenses patent portfolio to HTC, angling for royalty payments on Android handsets

Fri, Apr 30, 2010

Legal, News

Less than two months ago, Apple made a power move when it announced its plans to sue HTC for infringing on 20 Apple patents. Concurrently, Apple filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission seeking to ban the import of HTC manufactured devices. In early April, the ITC agreed to investigate Apple’s claims.

Apple’s moves against HTC, which manufactures the Nexus One, is largely viewed as a strike against Android via proxy. But in an interesting twist on things, Microsoft earlier this week struck a deal with HTC whereby the Taiwanese-based handset manufacturer will have full licensing access to Microsoft’s entire patent portfolio.

At first glance, it seemed that Microsoft was stepping up to help HTC and perhaps Google, albeit indirectly. After all, whereas companies like Apple, Microsoft, and Palm have extensive patent portfolios that stretch back for decades and cover a multitude of technologies, both Google and HTC have relatively little patent power at their disposal.

But Microsoft’s true intentions crystallized when they announced that Google’s Android OS infringes on their patents. And much like Apple’s suit, the patents at issue relate to UI design and core OS functionality. So what the hell is going on here?

Well as you might have guessed, it appears that Microsoft is looking to recoup some of the licensing revenue that’s becoming harder to come by given the the ongoing decline of Windows Mobile and the simultaneous rise of Android. And it sure doesn’t help that Android, as opposed to WM 7, is free. Microsoft, therefore, is angling to receive royalty payments on every Android handset sold by HTC.

It’s a pretty shrewd move by Microsoft, but there’s no denying that they’d ideally like to generate revenue via the sale of Windows Mobile licenses – ┬ábut hey, beggars can’t be choosers.


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