Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi buys 1,500 patents from Microsoft

Microsoft and Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi have signed a new patent licensing and Office plus Skype preintallation deal.

Chinese smartphone vendor Xiaomi is buying approximately 1,500 patents from Microsoft.

microsoftxiaomipatent.jpg

The Wall Street Journal, which reported the deal, noted that the arrangement comes at a time when Microsoft is both continuing to collect patent royalties from Android phone makers, as well as to try to fend off antitrust charges in China.

Xaiomi will be purchasing the patents from Microsoft for an undisclosed amount. The patents included in the agreement include wireless communications patents, plus other patents for technologies including video, according to the Journal.

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As has been the case in recent Microsoft Android patent-licensing arrangements, the new Xiaomi_microsoft deal also involves a deal for Office and Skype preinstallation on Xiaomi phones and tablets, according to a tweet from Hugo Barra, a Xiaomi Global Vice President. (Thanks to @archiecoder for the heads up on Barra's tweet.)

The Microsoft-Xioami deal comes the same day that Xiaomi said it would be downsizing its Brazilian operations due to tax and manufacturing rules.

Xiaomi recently released an Android-based set-top box into the U.S. market.

Update: Here's Microsoft's press release announcing the Xiaomi patent deal.

From the press release:

"Beginning in September 2016, Xiaomi Android devices, including Mi 5, Mi Max, Mi 4s, Redmi Note 3 and Redmi 3, will come pre-installed with Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook and Skype applications. Specific offerings may vary by device, market and mobile operator.

"This agreement builds on the companies' partnership with Windows 10 on Mi Pad and Microsoft Azure powering the Mi Cloud service. Partnerships with companies such as Xiaomi are central to Microsoft's strategy to work with industry leaders around the world to meet the needs of joint customers."

I've asked Microsoft for clarification around the fact that some outlets are saying Xiaomi "bought" these patents, rather than licensed them, as other Android vendors have done. If and when I hear back, I will update this post.

Update (June 1): A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the Microsoft deal with Xiaomi included both patent licensing and acquisition components. The explanation:

"There is a patent agreement between the two companies that includes a patent cross-license and patent transfer. In part, Xiaomi is taking a license to some of Microsoft's patents and Microsoft is taking a license to Xiaomi's patents. Additional details of the agreement remain confidential.

"Microsoft sold Xiaomi nearly 1,500 patents that read on a variety of technologies from its worldwide portfolio, including wireless communications, video, cloud, and multimedia....

"In terms of whether Microsoft has sold patents as a part of other IP or business collab deals in the past - from time to time, Microsoft transfers patents as part of IP and strategic business collaboration deals, also regularly buying and licensing patents from third parties."

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