Samsung Signs Android Patent Pact With Microsoft

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Samsung has agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for its Android devices, as Microsoft steps up its licensing strategy

Microsoft has entered into a cross-licensing agreement with Samsung, in which the latter agrees to pay royalties for its Android tablets and smartphones. Financial terms were undisclosed. A Microsoft-issued press release indicated that Samsung would also collaborate on development and marketing for Windows Phone.

Over the past several quarters, Microsoft has engaged in an aggressive licence-or-lawsuit strategy with regard to Android, entering into agreements with several companies. It has also launched intellectual property lawsuits at those companies with whom it couldn’t come to terms over Android licensing.

Cross-licensing

“The agreement also gives both companies greater patent coverage relating to each other’s technologies, and opens the door to a deeper partnership in the development of new phones for the Windows Phone platform,” Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s general counsel and deputy general counsel, wrote in a coauthored 28 September posting on the website Microsoft on the Issues. “Today’s agreement with Samsung means that the top two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired licences to Microsoft’s patent portfolio.”

That other handset manufacturer is HTC. Motorola Mobility, another major producer of Android devices, is currently locked in a bitter courtroom dispute with Microsoft over alleged patent infringements; it remains an open question whether Motorola’s recently announced acquisition by Google will affect that legal battle.

Both authors spun Microsoft’s licensing strategy in a positive light. “These agreements prove that licensing works,” they wrote. “They show what can be achieved when companies sit down and address intellectual property issues in a responsible manner. The rapid growth of the technology industry, and its continued fast pace of innovation are founded on mutual respect for IP.” In turn, they added, intellectual property “incentivises” research and development.

Google protection

However, at least one pundit wants to downplay Google’s ability to protect Android manufacturers from lawsuits or licensing fees.

“By taking a royalty-bearing licence, Samsung recognises that Android has intellectual property problems that must be resolved with licence fees, and reduces to absurdity the idea that Google is going to be able to protect Android after the acquisition of Motorola Mobility,” patent expert Florian Mueller wrote in a 28 September posting on his blog.

Since Google announced that acquisition, he noted, Microsoft has signed three more Android manufacturers into licensing agreements.

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