Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

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: 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


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Patents will kill off what's left of the US economy

    If startups shy away from building anything because they can't afford to research if any new idea has some potential patent infringement, then the USA's proud past of "out of the garage" inventions has come to an end. So look forward to such great new advancements in technology as "Windows Vista", "Zune Marketplace" and "Kin" phone. Yep, that's our future.

    I'm now moving to France.

    • I fail to see the fails


      The only fail I see here is the Kin. But what was wrong with Vista or the Zune Marketplace?
      The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @Cylon Centurion 0005

        Zune Marketplace suffers from artists randomly pulling their works from the library, which makes them unplayable in user's libraries, sometimes even if they paid money to *purchase* the track. The only way to be sure that a downloaded file is going to remain playable in one's library is to purchase the non-DRM MP3, which can be done from anywhere, without all the BS of "points". Microsoft spent a crapload of money betting on DRM, only to find out that people don't like "renting" their music.

        Now, if you have to ask what was wrong with Vista...
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 You must have pretty low expectations.
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @Cylon Centurion 0005 I can't answer the questions about the Zune marketplace but as for Vista THAT was a steaming pile of crapware that should not have ever been released as anything but a beta version... and this is from my own personal experience in dealing with 2 formerly Vista based systems at home and 3 formerly Vista based systems at work... all have since been replaced with Windows 7 and run like tops. Some people have been able to adapt and overcome the issues and still happily run Vista - and good for them, but my issues and from what I've read most people's issues weren't so easily fixed until Windows 7 came out.
      • Cylon Centurion 0005 r u for real

        Vista is the worst product as OSs go I've seen in a while. If you like it, shows how much you know about computers or like someone else said. Your quality standards are very very low.

        Back to the subject.

        The US patent system is broken, specially giving patents on ideas that are common knowledge and constitute Prior Art.

        What really gets to me, is that a small time joe with an Idea patents it. He then goes to a top of the line company, the people there listen to his idea. The top company come up with a product similar to his. He sues the company because it was his idea first and he applied for the patents and got it. After years of litigation courts fine the little guy because the large company has the pockets to state that it was Prior Art.

        Very few are lucky to be Tesla or who had to fight years to prove their cases. Most little guys end up with a raw deal. I know a guy in Chicago who almost went broke because he invented something now everyone uses, it was ruled Prior Act in a state where he didnt reside, making it expensive for him to defend himself.

        The law has to offer more protection for inventors and less leverage for the big guys.

        The patent case of MS or Apple is to gain market share, these patents suits should be first approved by the ITC and then handled in courts if there is a need to. This would save tax payers tons of money and free up the legal system for more important matters.

        Most of what MS request can easily be interpreted as Prior Art.

        The other effect is that people in the US will not benefit from the latest technology. In fact thirldworld countries have better technologies now a days because of this. In time this is going to get worse if its not fixed soon.
      • Seriously

        @Cylon Centurion 0005

        I had no problems running or supporting Vista.
        The one and only, Cylon Centurion
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @Cylon Centurion 0005
        Wow. Look at all these comments.
        "Now, if you have to ask what was wrong with Vista..."
        "You must have pretty low expectations."
        "...steaming pile of crapware..."
        And yet not a single one of them cites even one actual problem with Windows Vista. Amazing.

        The fact was that there was nothing ultimately wrong with Windows Vista other than it was the victim of some poor forecasting (on Microsoft's part) of what the avg PC footprint would be memorywise, and the fact that they didn't evangelize driver development to IHVs well enough for x86, much less x64. (One might also allude to the lack of WPF applications upon Vista's release but then again, that's a problem that remains to this day.)

        In reality, Windows 7 benefited from the avg RAM on PC's today rising to 2GB in comparison to when Vista was released and the heavy emphasis that Microsoft made on working with hardware manufacturers to produce solid drivers for the new Vista driver model.

        In fact, all the damage control that was done during Windows Vista allowed Windows 7 to be successful. The relationship between Windows Vista & Windows 7 is very similar to Windows 2000 & Windows XP. They were all quality OS's but the latter were "dot 1" releases that benefits from some fit & finish that former didn't have.

        Put into simpler context: Windows Vista when installed on the desktop systems that ship with Windows 7 today works about as well as Windows 7. The boot/shutdown sequence does take about 10% longer & multi-core systems tend to perform a little better for apps that handle multiple threads well, but outside of that, assuming you have quality drivers, you'll find performance, stability, and compatibility to be BASICALLY THE SAME.

        It's unproven relgious zealotry that allows the urban legend of the poor quality of Windows Vista to persist.
    • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

      @myles@... Yeah, because the EU never sues anybody for anything. That's genius, right there.

      Incidentally, Zune Marketplace is excellent.
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @GoodThings2Life OK, then I'll move to the Caymans. Whatever. I just want to be free to invent stuff without 'the man' bringing me down.
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android


        Please tell us about some of your inventions.
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        Completely agree. Anyone that disses Zune Marketplace and disregards ZunePass is nothing but an uneducated bigot for some other 'church' that hasn't looked at the potential value of both camps.

        I love Zune Marketplace. For $14.95/mo, I can download every single Comedy album in the Zune catalog at no charge. George Carlin. Lenny Bruce. Jerry Seinfeld. Patton Oswald. Lewis Black. Mitch Hedberg. Steve Martin. George Lopez. Joe Rogan. Jim Breuer. Eddie Izzard. Bill Hicks. Cheech & Chong. Greg Giraldo (R.I.P.). I can listen to it, then delete it. Or keep bits I like.

        For $14.95/mo, I can download entire albums of songs for my kids. They get tired of them, I nuke the old ones and download new ones. Good God, I'd hate to waste money on these soul-draining sing-song albums otherwise - even at 99 cents a track.

        For $14.95/mo, I can subscribe to ever changing 'mixlists' of favorite songs as selected by a certain musician that I like. Or top 100 songs of a certain genre like "best 80's" or "best classical" as picked by experts or other Zune members. And as the lists changes, I automatically get the new songs downloaded to my machine, and I don't pay a DIME.

        It all syncs to my Zune, along with my podcasts, my other ripped content, my audiobooks, and my videos.

        And every month, I get to keep 10 songs/tracks of my choice by (re)downloading them as MP3s to my machine. Mine to keep forever.
    • Having used both I prefer the Zune Marketplace over iTunes

      so would not itunes be considered the failure as they could have done it better, yet chose to keep iTunes the way it currentlly is?
      Tim Cook
  • *sigh*

    Welcome to America, home of the sue happy brave.

    I'm suing you all. You'll be hearing from my lawyers soon.
    The one and only, Cylon Centurion
    • Possible solution

      @Cylon Centurion 0005
      Here's a solution for the rest of the world:

      Slap on a sticker "Not for sale or use in U.S.A and Japan (and other countries that believe in Software Patents)".
  • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

    Well they do have to protect their investments instead of allowing other companies to just take it for free.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

      @Loverock Davidson
      Yeah, Mendeleev should have patented the Periodic table of elements, shouldn't he?
  • Those who can, innovate...

    Those who can't, sue.
    • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

      @viztor HUH? So you buys an Android Phone you call it 'innovative'. Then it turns out the way it all works actually is someone elses work? You are making a case for Android to sue b/c they can't innovate. The logic doesnt make sense.

      If you steal, you should be punished. Full Stop.
      • RE: Microsoft stops rattling sabres and starts slashing at Android

        @mcleutz I've had 2 iPhones and dumped them due to draconian control by Apple on what I can and can't do on them. I have one Nexus One with Android 2.2 on it. Works perfectly, no restrictions. Better. Nuff said.