310 Microsoft patents used in Android licensing agreements revealed by Chinese gov

310 Microsoft patents used in Android licensing agreements revealed by Chinese gov

Summary: Hundreds of patents which secure Microsoft lucrative Android licensing deals have been published by the Chinese government.

TOPICS: Patents, Microsoft, China
Credit: Microsoft

While Microsoft and Google are rivals in many arenas, Microsoft makes a substantial profit from patents used by Android vendors. However, despite Microsoft's commitment to transparency, these agreements have only been revealed in legal surroundings -- until now.

Patent licensing deals agreed between the Redmond giant and Android device makers grant Microsoft revenue for every device made using the company's intellectual property. In November last year, Nomura analyst Rick Sherlund estimated that Microsoft was making as much as $2bn in Android patent licensing agreements. These funds are believed to be covering losses in the tech giant's entertainment division, covering Xbox, Windows Phone and Skype.

The company has never revealed the patents and fees centered within licensing deals, unless required to do so in the courtroom. However, documents posted on the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM)’s website detail the full range of patents included within licensing agreements. As reported by Ars Technica, the patent lists were submitted as part of the Chinese government's review of the purchase of Nokia's handset division by Microsoft for $7.2 billion.

Chinese regulators approved the deal in April after examining whether Microsoft's licensing agreements could be used in an anti-competitive fashion, and whether Nokia might be tempted to ramp up the costs of licensing.

The patents, which are found on the Chinese language version of the website, include 73 standard-essential patents generally used in mobile technology, as well as 127 Android-implemented patents -- both developed by Microsoft and acquired by participating in the Rockstar Consortium. In addition, a number of non standard-essential patents were examined by Chinese regulators, including 68 patent applications and 42 issued patents.

A list detailing all 310 patents can be found here (.DOCX).

In an April 8 blog post, Microsoft said MOFCOM's antitrust investigation concluded the company "holds approximately 200 patent families that are necessary to build an Android smartphone." However, the patent list sees to suggest these patents are not so much families as singular patents necessary to Android technology.

Earlier this month, Microsoft struck a deal with Chinese security vendor Qihoo 360 to develop mobile internet and artificial intelligence technologies. Microsoft's Beijing-based Asia Internet Engineering Academy -- the unit working with Qihoo 360 -- researches search engine technology, advertizing and mobile Internet services, while Qihoo 360 focuses on mobile security, browsers and Android applications.

Despite a recent strengthening of relationships between the Redmond giant and Chinese firms, the PC maker has been placed under scrutiny by the country's government, alongside IBM, Google and Apple. Chinese state-owned media has reported on the dangers inherent with U.S. technology, and by way of example, Windows 8 has been branded a cybersecurity threat.

In June, Ni Guangnan, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Engineering, labelled the operating system a threat due to its ability to collect data and transmit information through the cloud. This, in turn, means that Chinese citizen data could end up in the hands of the U.S. government, according to the academic. As Microsoft has not given the government its source code, China has banned the system from use on new government computer systems.

Recent accusations and suspicions have stemmed from the release of confidential documents by former U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, revealing the U.S. government's involvement in wiretapping, zero-day exploitation and bulk data collection worldwide.

Topics: Patents, Microsoft, China

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  • Microsoft = pure patent abuser and troll

    Microsoft = pure patent abuser and troll

    EU should really step in this progress back pushing by Microsoft patent abusing and stealing
    Jiří Pavelec
    • not a troll

      they are not a patent troll, they use most of the patents themselves, so they cannot be a patent troll.

      Also they are, according to reports, offering the patents at a reasonable price per device, unlike some others.

      I'm all for clamping down on non-practicing entities, but in this case they are using their patent portfolio legitimately, and seemingly without prejudice.

      Of course the other question is whether all of those patents are valid patents, but that is another matter.
      • Avoid MS Tax, Android should purge

        All non essential issues where MS has patents. Google should buy all IBM patents that render MS irrelevant.
        • Many

          of the patents are required for wireless communications and data processing. That would mean that Android would have to abandon 3G and LTE technology and Wi-Fi and come up with some non-compatible alternatives, which wouldn't work with any existing carrier... Not really practical.
          • The illusion of free

            Everybody wants everything to be free. Nobody wants to pay for their software anymore since Google created the illusion of freeware. This issue here is that many of you are pushing this freeware logic to the point where R&D and innovation have no value anymore. If MS or Apple or Google owns a patent, there is a good reason for that… they either created the thing or bought the patent in a deal. That how it goes and that’s it. If you don’t accept that then you should be waiting for the next big thing because nobody will be motivated to created it or innovate. You should also expect Chinese company to copy whatever comes out of any American company with impunity. It’s all about money and how to get it. Innovation is the way our nation is still leading the world. Respect that or stop buying electronic stuff.
          • I don't have that much confidence in the system

            Enough trivial patents have been publicized recently that it appears that the USPTO either (a) doesn't have the resources or expertise to properly vet claims or (b) is simply accepting any claims that appear to be plausible and letting the courts sort out any disputes without actually performing the due dilligence proper administration of the law would require.
            John L. Ries
          • "to the point where R&D and innovation have no value anymore."

            Yet humans were doing R&D and innovating for thousands of years before patents existed.

            But you're probably right. Doing away with patents would halt technology in its tracks forever.

            Seriously, just like the U.S. Congress, Canadian Parliment, and corporate law, the patent system worked for everyone 100 years ago, but has since been hi-jacked by a few, and distorted to only serve those few.

            A hundred years ago, the patent system help protect the backyard inventor.

            Today, a backyard inventor has little to no chance to enforce his patent (if he can even get one) against corporations that have millions, or billions, of dollars to use in court battles.
          • Independently Invented

            No one has yet explained to me why if something is independently invented, AND NOT COPIED, why the first to patent it has some sort of exclusive rights that deprives the other inventor of theirs? How does this promote innovation? How does the consumer benefit from this? If something is copy-able then it is probably obvious, otherwise how could it be copied? I haven't seen anyone copy Gravity yet, or anti-gravity, would that be because how it works is not obvious? And if someone were to discover its secrets would they have to patent any related inventions, or could they not be copied because they were non-obvious?
          • @bigpicture

            Because somebody has already invented it and patented it. Therefore they have the right to either get the products banned or ask for a license fee. That is how the law works. If you invent something yourself, then you should a) do due diligence and see if it has already been invented and b) if it hasn't, you should try and patent it for yourself.

            The only chance you have of avoiding the license fee is by proving that the patent is obvious or that there was prior art before the patent was applied for.
          • the problem is "obvious".

            You are not supposed to be able to patent the obvious.

            If those were eliminated, along with the patents on ideas, there would be no problem.
          • You have to understand the rules of patents

            You can't just be the first to patent something. It has to be a new something. That is why no one can patent the cotton gin. It wouldn't be an invention.

            So if someone markets something but with no patent, it can't be patented -- ever.
          • Wrong on so many places.

            "...illusion of freeware..."

            No, that started with IBM in the 50s. Software is what is used to sell hardware.

            "where R&D and innovation have no value anymore"

            No again. Hardware is where patents belong. Things that are a "transformation of matter". Software is not a transformation of matter. It is just mathematics. A written expression.

            There is no issue with MS hardware patents. The do have a number of them.

            It is the junk software patents that cause the problems.
          • interesting.. microsoft not being honest... shock horror.

            they said patents that are standards essential shouldn't be used as weapons.. yet they seem to be doing that themselves.. interesting that they didn't mention that in court.

            Also, keep in mind that the one time this was going to be challenged in court.. Microsoft ended up paying 300+ million to to Barnes and Noble to stop it going before a jury and being "decided". Clearly their lawyers had less faith in their legal position than their management.
          • sorry.. that was a "joint venture"

            with B&N I mean.. we haven't seem much output from that venture.. but it worked.. no more lawsuit and almost no more B&N.. I really wish they had stuck to their guns.
          • Standards essential @frankieh

            I don't get your point. MS are letting the manufacturers use the patented technology for a reasonable price, they are not using it as a weapon - just look at Apple, Motorola and Samsung.

            Allegedly MS want between $5 and $10 per device. In the H.264 case, Motorola (ISTR)wanted hundreds of dollars per device for a couple of patents, whereas all of the dozens of patents for h.264 were licensed through the MPEG LA for a few cents per device. That would be using them as a weapon.
          • No.

            Price is always negotiated. The starting price is almost never payed. The two parties negotiated the price down to a resulting $5 to $10 in money, but you are ignoring any fees that would have been paid for patents that were cross licensed.

            Motorola simply presented the initial price as offered to others. MS just chose to ignore it and try to take them to court.

            That is not a "negotiation in good faith".
        • Yes purge!

          That is why they were secret ... until now.
      • Still distorting the market

        First they complained about Android being free, while their WP cost money to OEMs and they charged money from Android OEMs, essentially making Android cost close to as much for those who didn't fight Microsoft's patent claims.

        Then they made WP free, and still charge money from Android OEMs, which means Android essentially costs more unless you fight Microsofts patent claims.

        Hypocrisy overflow.
        • This is called strategy.

          Perhaps you have heard about it.
          • Commerce is not war

            "Strategy" comes from the Greek word "strategos", which means "general". It really has no place in peaceful pursuits (or more peaceful than team sports).
            John L. Ries