HTC, Microsoft wade deeper into patent thickets
The story reads like a joke or a misprint: Smartphone manufacturer HTC inked a patent agreement with Microsoft ... covering devices running Google's Android software? (In other news, I've just signed a patent licensing deal with IBM covering cranky, sarcastic blog posts!)
But it's right there in yesterday's press release:
Microsoft Corp. and HTC Corp. have signed a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for HTC's mobile phones running the Android mobile platform. Under the terms of the agreement, Microsoft will receive royalties from HTC.
This arrangement does, however, make sense if you've been keeping up with recent software-patent developments. See, HTC is already being sued by Apple for allegedly infringing on some of Apple's smartphone patents; the Taiwan-based company can now point to its newly licensed Microsoft patents and tell Apple "sorry, somebody else beat you to these ideas."
What's in it for Microsoft? You might think that our friends in Redmond, Wash., are just in this deal for the money, or possibly the chance to help somebody else swat down Apple. Then again, what if Microsoft next wants to suggest that Android infringes on its own patents? That seems to be the case, too--which would fit into its history of suggesting that Linux, the open-source operating system on which Android is built, infringes on its patents.
Unless, of course, we're talking about entirely different sets of patent claims between Apple and Microsoft.
(Update, 2:25 p.m. A Microsoft publicist provided a link to a March blog post by company vice president and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez that essentially says that Apple's suit is for everybody's own good: "The smartphone market is still in a nascent state; much innovation still lies ahead in this field. In all nascent technology markets, there is a period early where IP rights will be sorted out." Later on in the post, Gutierrez opines that "Open innovation is only possible through the licensing of third party IP rights," which makes me wonder what he thinks of the open, innovative and patent-free World Wide Web.)
Whether any of these infringement allegations are true is often, in a practical sense, irrelevant. Companies routinely settle this kind of dispute by signing "cross-licensing agreements" that let them stick to their original plans.
If that happens in this case, you, the customer, may see the resulting improvements in future smartphones:
Well, you might pay a little more to cover the legal fees run up by everybody's intellectual-property lawyers. But that doesn't count as an "improvement" unless you're a patent attorney or you happen to sell goods or services to members of the patent bar.
Would somebody now like to explain how these legal games "promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts," the Constitution's justification for giving Congress the power to grant temporary patent monopolies? If so, the comments are all yours.
Posted by: trentgu | April 28, 2010 3:07 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: 54Stratocaster | April 29, 2010 2:25 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 29, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: RickG5 | April 30, 2010 9:36 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Rob Pegoraro | April 30, 2010 10:47 AM | Report abuse
The comments to this entry are closed.