Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

Summary:Microsoft sued Motorola on October 1, claiming Motorola is infringing on nine Microsoft smartphone-related patents with its Android phones.

Remember back in April when Microsoft announced that HTC was paying Microsoft an undisclosed sum to license Microsoft patented technology for use in phones running the Android operating system? Ever since, the Softies have hinted to anyone who'd listen that phones running Android weren't really as "free" as their vendors claimed, and that they'd have to pay up, one day.

October 1 looks like "that day" on the Redmondian calendar. Microsoft sued Motorola today, claiming Motorola is infringing on a handful Microsoft smartphone-related patents.

These patents seemingly are operating-system related. The eight, which Microsoft outlines in both its U.S. District Court and International Trade Commission complaints, are listed at the bottom of my post. (A Microsoft spokersperson characterized the patents in question as being "OS-related and (related to) Exchange ActiveSync.")

"Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones," Microsoft deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing Horacio Gutierrez said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Microsoft officials reiterated their argument that even though Microsoft charges handset makers an operating-system licensing fee, that fee includes patent-protection indemnification.

I hadn't really thought until today about whether Microsoft might be counting on patent-infringement suits against its smartphone competitors as one way to give Windows Phone 7 a boost. Creating uncertainty through court cases may deter some users from certain phone vendors, but I'd think the majority of consumers would have no idea about specific patent actions.

What's your take on Microsoft's decision to sue over Android -- which,at its root, is yet another variation on Microsoft's continued campaign claiming Linux infringes on its patents?

Update: News.com has a copy of Microsoft's complaint against Motorola and Android embedded here. Here are descriptions of the patents upon which Microsoft claims Motorola is infringing:

  • Common name space for long and short file names
  • Monitoring entropic conditions of a flash memory device as an indicator for invoking erasure operations
  • Radio interface layer in a cell phone with a set of APIs having a hardware-independent proxy layer and a hardware-specific driver layer
  • Method and system for managing changes to a contact database
  • Flexible architecture for notifying applications of state changes
  • Context-sensitive menu system/menu behavior
  • Method and system for supporting offline mode of operation and synchronization using resource-state information
  • General meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device

Topics: Mobility, Hardware, Microsoft, Operating Systems, Smartphones, Software

About

Mary Jo Foley has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications, including ZDNet, eWeek and Baseline. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008). She also is the cohost of the "Windows Weekly" podcast on the TWiT network. Got a tip? Se... Full Bio

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