Microsoft Corners Android Tablet Maker On Patents

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Microsoft has entered into another Android-related patent agreement with tablet maker Velocity Micro

Microsoft has entered into a patent agreement with Velocity Micro, a maker of Android-based tablets. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed by either company.

Velocity Micro’s Cruz tablets target the “value” audience, with price-points below most other Android devices on the market. The 7-inch Cruz T301 e-reader retails for $199.99 (£124.87) and runs Android 2.2, supporting applications such as Facebook and Twitter, while the $149.99 (£93.65) Cruz R101 e-reader runs Android 2.0 and comes stocked with Borders e-books.

This marks the second time in a week that Microsoft has reached an agreement with a manufacturer over patents related to Android. On 27 June, the company announced a deal with General Dynamics Itronix wherein the latter would pay publicly unspecified royalties on Android-based products.

Microsoft Gunning For Android

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. Microsoft claims the Android platform infringes on a number of Microsoft-held patents.

Other companies have entered into similar royalty agreements with Redmond. 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, rumours circulated that Microsoft was actively seeking similar arrangements with other unnamed companies.

However, other Android manufacturers have been willing to put up a fight. 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 US 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.

Harming competition?

“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. “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.”

Motorola also elected to fight back against Microsoft after the latter filed a patent-infringement suit in October 2010. “The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorola’s Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone experience,” Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft, wrote in a statement at the time. Motorola retaliated with an intellectual-property complaint of its own.

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