Microsoft-HTC patent pact could provide Apple lawsuit air cover

Summary:Microsoft and HTC signed a patent agreement that covers Android handset devices. The move is curious given the Apple patent lawsuit against HTC. Will HTC's move to license Microsoft's patents give it some court protection in the Apple suit?

Microsoft and HTC signed a patent agreement that covers Android handset devices. The move is curious given the Apple patent lawsuit against HTC. Will HTC's move to license Microsoft's patents give it some court protection in the Apple suit?

In the statement, Microsoft said it will get royalties from HTC. Microsoft also jabbed at Apple a bit; Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing at the software giant, said:

"HTC and Microsoft have a long history of technical and commercial collaboration, and today’s agreement is an example of how industry leaders can reach commercial arrangements that address intellectual property."

The implication is that Apple should work out its Android differences with HTC out of court.

Mary Jo Foley touches on a big question: Is this licensing deal more about Apple or Linux? She adds that Microsoft has been licensing patents to Linux users. Since Android is Linux-based then it stands to reason that Microsoft's patent licensing extend to the mobile space.

However, I'd argue that Linux is a nice sidebar to this tale, but the Apple scenarios are interesting. To wit:

  • HTC has licensed Microsoft patents for Android.
  • Apple argues that HTC is infringing on its patents.
  • HTC can now argue that Microsoft's patents trump Apple's and it has already licensed intellectual properties.

Add it up and you get Microsoft patents as air cover. Now it's unclear whether this argument will work, but you don't have to be a lawyer to see how HTC could use this Microsoft deal to its advantage. There's a reason Apple sued HTC, a young company without a broad patent portfolio. Now HTC has Microsoft patents by proxy.

CNet News' Ina Fried quotes Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney, who touches on the Apple angle. Dulaney notes that HTC doesn't gain much from the Microsoft patent pact unless it plays into the Apple case somehow.

It should be interesting to see how HTC uses the Microsoft licensing pact.

Related:

Topics: Legal, Apple, HTC, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

About

Larry Dignan is Editor in Chief of ZDNet and SmartPlanet as well as Editorial Director of ZDNet's sister site TechRepublic. He was most recently Executive Editor of News and Blogs at ZDNet. Prior to that he was executive news editor at eWeek and news editor at Baseline. He also served as the East Coast news editor and finance editor at CN... Full Bio

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