Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

Summary: Samsung has joined the long line of Android Linux companies signing patent deals with Microsoft. But what are they really paying for? We don't know.

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Microsoft has just announced its biggest ever Android-related patent deal with Samsung. In this contract, Microsoft will get a royalty payment on every Android smartphone and tablet that Samsung sells. And, what exactly is Samsung paying for and how much are they actually paying? We don't know.

Horacio Gutierrez, vice president of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft, smiling all the way to the bank, said in a statement that "We are always looking for new opportunities to work collaboratively within the industry, and Samsung was a natural fit, particularly because of its leadership in the rapidly changing world of digital media technologies. That's another way of saying that Microsoft has managed to scare yet another company into paying them off for some unknown and untested patents.

On Twitter, Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel, triumphantly tweeted, "Today's agreement demonstrates we now have a clear path forward for resolving the industry's mobile patent issues" and "While we haven't yet reached the beginning of the end of mobile patent issues, perhaps we have now reached the end of the beginning." So, yeah, if you're idea of a clear path ahead is to pay off Microsoft, and other major companies like Apple, than we indeed have a way forward.

Microsoft is on a winning streak with this strategy. Casio and numerous other companies that use Linux in their hardware have paid off rather than face a Microsoft lawsuit. While Microsoft has claimed for years that Linux violates over 200 of the company's patents, Microsoft has also never said what these patents were.

In addition, the author of the study, Dan Ravicher, head of the Public Patent Foundation that Microsoft first cited as the source for its claims back in 2004 said at the time that "Microsoft is up to its usual FUD [fear, uncertainty and doubt]."

Ravicher continued, "Open source faces no more, if not less, legal risk than proprietary software. The market needs to understand that the study Microsoft is citing actually proves the opposite of what they claim it does. There is no reason to believe that GNU/Linux has any greater risk of infringing patents than Windows, Unix-based or any other functionally similar operating system. Why? Because patents are infringed by specific structures that accomplish specific functionality,"

In other words, "The bottom line is there's no reason to believe that Windows, Solaris, AIX or any other functionally similar operating system has any less risk of infringing patents than Linux does."

So why since to this very day Microsoft refuses to say what patents are being violated or how, why are companies paying off Microsoft?

First, Amanda McPherson, vice president of marketing and developer programs at The Linux Foundation, points out that you need to keep in mind that, "Patent licensing agreements are done every day in this industry. Unfortunately, this is business as usual. It's not surprising that in these cases, in particular, one of the parties is choosing to publicize them." In other words, it's business as usual, but in the interest of anti-Linux FUD, Microsoft wants to frighten companies.

Andrew 'Andy' Updegrove, a founding partner of Gesmer Updegrove, a top technology law firm, observed, "I think that there are a few things to focus on when you read such an announcement:

  • Was it a Linux only license? Note that in this case, Linux was only one element of the deal. The Linux only deals are sometimes between Microsoft and small companies that have little to gain by litigation
  • Was it a one way license, or a cross license as well? If it's a cross license, then the importance - or validity - of the Linux elements may be low as it's part of a larger package, perhaps one that covers all of the patents of both parties
  • And finally, as always, note that the terms are never revealed, so the amount of money that that may be changing hands may not only be low or high, but may also be calculated primarily on the basis of other patents besides the Linux-relevant ones.

And, indeed the Samsung deal is not Linux only, it is a cross-license contract, and the terms, as usual, are a mystery.

Today Ravicher looks at such deals as the Casio and Samsung contracts and simply says, U "Don't know who rolled over, as we don't know how much was paid. Other than that, this is not a new phenomenon. MS doesn't make good products any more, so all it can do is try to leech of those that do."

So why are companies going along with this? According to the experts, it's because it's cheaper to pay off Microsoft than to fight them. For what might be a nominal fee, Samsung and other companies avoid wasting years of time and money in court fighting them.

Patent lawsuits are all about money and control. Unless you're Oracle trying to monetize Java at Google's expense to the tune of a billion plus or Apple trying to kill off competition, companies can find it cheaper to pay off a patent attacker. After all, even Google would be happy to pay off Oracle... if Larry Ellison, Oracle's CEO, came down to a more reasonable 100-million or so.

In the end, the bottom line is that Microsoft is trying to get what money it can from Android and Linux vendors while trying to scare users off using the platform. Thanks to these patent deals and the endless mobile software patent lawsuit wars, we'll all end up paying more for my smartphones and tablets. After all, no matter who pays whom, in the end we, the people, are the ones who really end up paying for all these pointless patent licensing agreements and litigation.

Related Stories:

Microsoft cements position as Android's patent toll collector

Samsung signs Microsoft patent licensing deal to cover Android devices

Microsoft adds Casio to its Linux patent-protection list

Google and Intel Android pairing spells trouble for Microsoft

Google and Motorola Mobility: It's all about the patents

Topics: Samsung, Legal, Linux, Microsoft, Open Source, Operating Systems, Software

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  • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

    @SJVN We have no evident of monies changing hands.
    So, the PR is worth more than the chump change if they did or will receive.<br><br>PS. You are part of the master plan. Hence you wrote about it.
    Return_of_the_jedi
    • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

      @Return_of_the_jedi

      This issue here is what patents and how much. MS obviously fears something or it would do this under public scrutiny.

      I agree with SJVN that the only loser is us the consumer having to pay higher prices.
      Alan Smithie
  • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

    Oh, Stevie, calm down. No one is taking your precious from you. Android ain't free, and people a lot smarter than you in these companies are realizing that.
    cantbeme
    • Yep...

      @cantbeme <br>...When MS makes public accusations, they must be true, because no executive employed by a successful company would ever lie, much less abuse the legal system. The consequence of such unethical behavior would be instant dismissal and permanent unemployment.

      Reply to GetReal-mac.com:

      It's expensive to fight patent suits, even if you're innocent. All MS has to do is to make it cheaper to pay than to fight and they'll win most of the time. Some highly successful "businessmen" of Sicilian extraction follow a similar principle, but they don't bother with lawsuits.
      John L. Ries
      • Luckily we know you're more clever than them...... hoho

        @John L. Ries

        Come on! Are you really daft enough to believe folk hand over hard cash without knowing why? Get real! If they are, they know exactly why they're doing it. They have a duty to their shareholders and would end up in big trouble otherwise. They might not admit it, they might not tell you, but they know why.
        johnmckay
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @John L. Ries

        This is ridiculous idea. If MS was just strong arming, Google could match them dollar for dollar and crush them in the market. You are just like SJVN. You're crafting the facts to fit your dogma.
        CJArnola
        • Funny...

          Is that not what we (companies for gain/profit) all do... Craft the facts to fit our dogma?... Mostly everything I read has a hidden agenda. Articles like this to politics to the conspirators. It's everywhere.

          Heck, this is one itself... hidden message (find several sources, do your own research and believe what you feel fits your needs) lol
          Free Webapps
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @John L. Ries
        the people will rise against the axis of evil software : M$, Apple & Oracle and all the patents will be abolished. Then Linux and Android will blossom!
        The Linux Geek
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @John L. Ries "When MS makes public accusations, they must be true, because no executive employed by a successful company would ever lie, much less abuse the legal system."

        No, you gotta check for yourself if they are true, unless you don't care to follow Microsoft opinion. I doubt this is the case of Google or Motorola.
        alexhn555
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @CJArnola "If MS was just strong arming, Google could match them dollar for dollar and crush them in the market."

        It's not dollar for dollar, it's patent for patent. You can only play by the rules or you lose (as in every game).
        alexhn555
    • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

      @cantbeme

      I love how he think's he knows better than Samsungs lawyers . Obviously MS has the most valuable IP in the world... and companies just want to keep them happy, or they could lose out big.
      daniejam1
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @daniejam1 The problem is that we don't really know what's going on here. We don't know whether this is a legitimate "oh crap, we need to settle or else they'll get everything that isn't bolted down or on fire" or just a calculated move by Samsung to avoid having to go through the time and money that the case would cause them to spend, even if they are in the right.

        For that matter, has there ever been a victorious lawsuit by Microsoft regarding their patents? They obviously have an advantage of vastly superior funding over just about anyone else out there, but has a case in which they're the plaintiff ever gone to judgment?
        Third of Five
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @Third of Five

        Samsung and HTC will have very smart lawyers, companies like this just dont hand over money unless they have to....
        daniejam1
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @daniejam1

        I think the telling line about that is "For what might be a nominal fee, Samsung and other companies avoid wasting years of time and money in court fighting them."

        They are paying much less than what it would cost them to fight this. They may not believe that MS's IP is legal, but they don't want to expend the time and money to go to court and prove it.

        And I do agree with SVJN on one point: Please, MS, show us the patents that Linux is violating. Their line of "Linux violates 200 of our patents" is as credible as McCarthy saying "I have a list of Communist sympathizers here in my hand" while he waved around a grocery list. If Linux is violating the patents, let's see them!
        benched42
      • No one knows what money is going where

        @daniejam1 - nothing said implies that MS is making money on this. They could be paying more to Samsung than vice versa. Smart lawyers will insist that there's SOME statement that Samsung is paying per Android device, as a way to support their corporate campaign. It doesn't mean that Samsung concluded that MS has a legitimate claim, nor anything about the value of that claim.

        No matter how much anyone might wish it did.
        daboochmeister
    • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

      @cantbeme <br>Android is free if not for the axis of evil software: M$, Apple & Oracle.<br>Those who signed these dirty capitulation deals are either idiots either cowards with no principles.
      The Linux Geek
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @The Linux Geek

        You need to get a grip.
        daniejam1
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @daniejam1
        I have a firm grip on my android devices.
        The Linux Geek
      • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

        @The Linux Geek Maybe when Google stops stealing, idiots like you and SJVN can stop crying.
        jhammackHTH
  • RE: Microsoft's Samsung Android Patent Troll Win

    Tech-religious much?
    sagec