Microsoft’s Android-related licensing is less sexy than litigation but a more compelling business strategy


IP Value Wire has blogged in the past about how Microsoft was able to carve out a piece of a supposedly-free, open source operating system and turn it into a profit center. Below is a representative list of reports from FOSS Patents on how well that IP strategy is working.

Background

Back in 2009, Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer stated Linux was a bigger competitor than Apple. That admission even made Microsoft’s quarterly filing to the SEC.

The Linux operating system, which is also derived from Unix and is available without payment under a General Public License, has gained some acceptance, especially in emerging markets, as competitive pressures lead OEMs to reduce costs and new, lower-price PC form-factors gain adoption.

Far earlier, at the turn of the new century, Microsoft managers were admitting that migration to Linux from Windows was a major concern.

In one of the early signs that Microsoft had synched up their IP and business strategies (a change largely attributed to Brad Smith, who became SVP and general counsel in 2002, and the change in the U.S. IP protection remedies for software from copyright to patents), they tore apart Linux and examined how developers worked around various Microsoft patents. In May of 2007 they announced Linux, the free, open source operating system, violates 235 Microsoft patents. The company also laid out a second prong of its strategy: they wanted royalties from OEMs who choose Linux.

How is that Microsoft strategy working?

In February, 2013, Florian Mueller updated his list of Microsoft’s Android-related patent license agreements that have been made public. You be the judge.

  1. April 27, 2010: Microsoft Announces Patent Agreement With HTC
  2. June 27, 2011: Microsoft and General Dynamics Itronix Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover General Dynamics Itronix devices running the Android platform.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  3. June 29, 2011: Microsoft and Velocity Micro, Inc., Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android-Based Devices (FOSS Patents coverage)
  4. June 30, 2011: Microsoft and Onkyo Corp. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android-Based Tablets (FOSS Patents coverage)
  5. July 5, 2011: Microsoft and Wistron Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover Wistron's Android tablets, smartphones and e-readers.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  6. September 8, 2011: Microsoft and Acer Sign Patent License Agreement ("Agreement will cover Acer's Android tablets and smartphones.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  7. September 8, 2011: Microsoft and ViewSonic Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover ViewSonic's Android Tablets and smartphones.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  8. September 28, 2011: Microsoft and Samsung Broaden Smartphone Partnership ("Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties for Samsung's mobile phones and tablets running the Android mobile platform.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  9. October 23, 2011: Microsoft and Compal Electronics Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome Based Devices
  10. January 12, 2012: Microsoft and LG Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome OS Based Devices (FOSS Patents coverage)
  11. April 25, 2012: Microsoft and Pegatron Corp. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android- and Chrome-Based Devices
  12. April 30, 2012: Barnes & Noble and Microsoft Form Strategic Partnership to Advance World-Class Digital Reading Experiences for Consumers" ("Barnes & Noble and Microsoft have settled their patent litigation, and moving forward, Barnes & Noble and Newco will have a royalty-bearing license under Microsoft's patents for its NOOK eReader and Tablet products.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  13. July 9, 2012: Microsoft and Aluratek Inc. Sign Patent Agreement Covering Android and Chrome Based Devices
  14. November 7, 2012: Microsoft Signs Licensing Agreements for exFAT With Sharp, Sigma, NextoDi, Black Magic and Atomos Global ("The agreements cover Sharp Android tablets, Sigma and NextoDi high-end cameras and accessories, and Black Magic and Atomos Global broadcast-quality video-recording devices.")
  15. December 11, 2012: Microsoft and EINS Sign Android Patent Agreement ("EINS manufactures Android tablets under the Cat brand in Germany.") (FOSS Patents coverage)
  16. February 21, 2013: Microsoft and Nikon Sign Android Patent Agreement ("Agreement covers certain Nikon cameras running the Android platform.")
  1. December 11, 2012: Microsoft and Hoeft & Wessel AG Sign Patent Agreement ("Agreement will cover Hoeft & Wessel devices running the Android platform.") (FOSS Patents coverage)


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