More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

Summary: Sometimes it's cheaper to head off a potential problem than fight -- a stance the old Microsoft regime would repudiate, but one that the current one increasingly has been pursuing. On October 7, Microsoft did just that, by licensing 74 mobile-related patents from Acacia.

SHARE:

Sometimes it's cheaper to head off a potential problem than fight -- a stance the old Microsoft regime would repudiate, but one that the current one increasingly has been pursuing.

On October 7, Microsoft licensed 74 patents for an undisclosed amount with Acacia Research Corp. and Access Co. Ltd, the Japanese company that acquired PalmSource, the maker of the Palm operating system, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal.

Acacia noted the Microsoft deal in a press release, which said Microsoft had licensed "a portfolio of patents related to smartphones owned by Acacia subsidiary SmartPhone Technologies LLC and Access Co. Ltd.," which included "inventions created by Access Co., Ltd., Palm, Palmsource, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks.

Acacia, which has been described as "the mother of all patent trolls," makes its money by buying companies with patents and then threatning/suing companies it claims to be infringing on those patents. According to a BusinessWeek story from earlier this year, Acacia has filed at least 337 patent-related lawsuits during its 18-year history. Look at the list of companies that have ended up licensing patents from Acacia this year alone. On the long list: IBM, Philips, U.S. Cellular, Seagate, Zoho, Toshiba and lots, lots more.

This isn't the first time this year that Microsoft has licensed IP from Acacia. In May, Microsoft licensed patents from Acacia for "enhancing image resolution." In January, as part of a settlement agreement, Microsoft licensed technology from Acacia for "aggregating and expressing geographically linked data."

The Journal said some of the patents which Microsoft licensed this week are the subject of a lawsuit Acacia filed against Apple, RIM, Samsung Electronics, Motorola and other smartphone makers. (Microsoft was not named in that suit.) The patents in question covered capabilities like e-mail synchronization, among other technologies.

Microsoft -- like nearly every player in the smartphone market -- has been at the center of patent litigation and settlements this year. HTC agreed to license patents from Microsoft to head off potential patent-infringement trouble involving Android.. And last week, Microsoft sued Motorola for alleged patent infringement on a handful of Microsoft's mobile OS and ActiveSync technologies.

Topics: Microsoft, Legal, Mobility, Smartphones

About

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).

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

31 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Good for Microsoft. Nice to see them set a good example for the others

    to follow. Well done. It shows they mean it when they say they respect the ip of others.
    Johnny Vegas
    • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

      @Johnny Vegas

      Acacia is the ultimate patent troll and has attempted extortion before, and sometimes when companies fight back, the patents are invalidated. Acacia harassed companies about a streaming media patent they owned and when satellite companies fought back, they got the patent invalidated. Business method patents need to go.
      DonRupertBitByte
    • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

      @Johnny Vegas

      Troll harder.
      therustbelt
  • Bubble Patents

    They claimed their phones advantage is it offers patent protection, then they license patents to give those patents a fake air of value.
    guihombre
  • If Acacia decides to act against Microsoft's licensees...

    If Acacia decides to act against Microsoft's licensees like Microsoft is acting against Motorola then they might sue Microsoft's licensees and require to be payed again for what has already been payed by Microsoft. It will be bloodshed among Microsoft's licensees and Microsoft is basically validating it.<br><br>Microsoft is validating the troll's claims hoping to benefit from it down the road because Google payed Microsoft for patents used in Android and now Microsoft is suing Motorola requiring Motorola to pay something that has already been payed by Google.<br><br>Microsoft wants to be payed twice, thrice, or more if possible. Their support for the patent troll in this case is not innocent, they are expecting to benefit from it in their case against Motorola.<br><br>Doesn't Microsoft care about it? For the sake of Microsoft's licensees I hope they do.
    OS Reload
    • It will be a token price

      I've seen these trolls work before, usually the first settlement is for a token price, e.g. $1, so the troll gets what IT wants: a fake front of authenticity it can point to in court.... "look judge, THIS company licensed our patents so THEY must think they are valid" and Microsoft gets what it wants, a false value point to claim for it's phone.

      Shame they can't just make good products that customers want to buy, but that's Microsoft for you.

      As ever, if Microsoft's main claim as to why you should license its phone is : "to not be sued by patent trolls" then it's phones can't be any good and thus won't sell.

      The people who buy handsets don't care about patent trolls, and don't opt for one handset over another according to what troll is suing the maker.
      guihombre
      • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

        @guihombre <br>Google does not offer extended patent protection for android( It's free) compared to microsoft who stands behind their product for the fee they get from the OEMs who pay the licence fees for the OS.<br>Why did apple sue HTC and not google ? it's more or less the same in microsoft's case.<br>Samsung , HTC and others have licenced microsoft ip ,Moto hasn't .
        g@...
    • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

      @OS Reload [i]If Acacia decides to act against Microsoft's licensees like Microsoft is acting against Motorola then they might sue Microsoft's licensees and require to be payed again for what has already been payed by Microsoft.[/i]

      Admittedly I know next to nothing about patents... but it would seem to me that if MS licenses the patents from Acacia and create the phone software. Then phone makers license MS's Phone software, that they'd be covered under MS's agreement with Acacia. No?
      Badgered
      • That's what Motorola thought with Android

        and now Microsoft is suing them. Same can happen to Microsoft's licensees if Acacia decides to go after them now that Microsoft has blessed Acacia's tactics.<br><br>If it works for Microsoft against Google licensees (namely Motorola) then it will also work for Acacia against Microsoft licensees.<br><br>Microsoft acted recklessly in validating Acacia's claims and by doing so left its licensees at the mercy of Acacia should Acacia opt to follow the example set by Microsoft in its case against Motorola.
        OS Reload
      • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

        @OS Reload

        I am not sure but do phone manufacturers' license Android from Google ? Or Google just gives it away from free ? Because if it gives it away for free then the scenario that you mention is different from what Badgered is mentioning.
        1773
      • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

        @OS Reload

        For that scenario to be the same, Google would have to have licensed those patents through MS... and Motorola would then have to license the Android software through Google. I'm not sure if that did or did not happen though.
        Badgered
    • You're asuming that Google had the right to pass the license on.

      OS Reload. Hasn't it accured to you that Google may have licensed the IP from MS for their use only, with the condition being that the end user (HTC, Motorola, ect) had to license it also as the license was "non-transferable".

      A good deal of licensed IP is done in that manner.
      John Zern
      • If that's the case...

        If that's the case then you cannot say that Google has bought a license to use in Android the OS, can you?

        If that's the case then all you can say is that Google has bought a license to use in its own phones, the physical devices, not the OS.

        If that's the case then people should stop writing that Google has bought licenses for Android.

        A little more accuracy in reporting would be welcome.
        OS Reload
      • Os Reload, In a sense

        you can. Yes they licensed the IP for their use in Android, and are free to produce as menay of their own phones as they want. If the Nexus One would have been a success, then maybe they woulkd have gone with Nexus Two, ect. and continued to license the IP.

        But it wouldn't make sense for MS to license out their Ip to Google, while allowing Google to give it out for free to 1000 other companies, so I'm assuming that Google didn't expect the Nexus one to be a failure, and was licenising it for themselves.

        So yes, I think they did license it for Android, but particually for the version they didn't release, as they were modifying it for use on the Nexus one.
        John Zern
  • Hilarious!

    In a parallel universe today, MS was sued in a Texas court for infringing on 74 Acacia patents. OS Reload spams ZDNet with posts demonizing MS for stealing tech from other companies and hoping that MS loses the case and has to pay billions in fines.

    MS pays to license tech, they are evil.
    MS doesn't pay to license tech, they are evil.

    Double standards cued very early today!!
    NonZealot
    • On zdnet MS is always guilty of something

      @NonZealot

      But seriously, patent issues are the fault of govt as they issue patents, and run the courts that hear patent cases.
      otaddy
    • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

      @NonZealot

      Double standards according to the straw man you have just set up. Nicely done.
      therustbelt
    • Stupid

      More proof the patent system is fundamentally flawed.<br>Where is the protection for the real inventor when this sort of political manuvering is possible?
      Where is the incentive to invent?
      Improving the incentive to invent is the whole reason the patent system was created.
      It certainly no longer fulfils that role - in fact it is now being used by big business as an income earner and as a dis-incentive to invent.
      inmarket
  • No such thing as patent troll

    In the US patents can be bought and sold legally. Therefore, the owner of the patent can sue for damages if his property is taken or used without permission.

    This doesnt mean I agree with this as govt does a lot of stupid things. At one time, they said it was permissable to buy and sell slaves.

    The govt runs the patent office and the courts that hear patent cases...both have failed us.
    otaddy
    • RE: More mobile patent madness: Microsoft licenses 74 smartphone-related patents from Acacia

      @otaddy [i]No such thing as patent troll[/i]

      Maybe, maybe not... but to me any company buying patents they had nothing to do with creating just to sue other companies... I'd define as a troll.
      Badgered