Microsoft's latest patent licensee: Android embedded device maker Hoeft & Wessel

Microsoft's latest patent licensee: Android embedded device maker Hoeft & Wessel

Summary: Microsoft has signed a patent-licensing deal with Hoeft & Wessel AG, a German maker of Android-based devices and terminals for a variety of vertical markets.


Microsoft has struck yet another patent-licensing deal with a company using the Android operating system.


The latest licensee, Hoeft & Wessel AG, isn't a household name, at least here in the U.S. The German IT vendor makes devices and terminals for the public transportation, logistics and retail industries that rely on Android as their embedded operating system.

The two companies aren't sharing details of the agreement, beyond the fact that Microsoft will receive unspecified royalties from Hoeft & Wessel. Microsoft announced the arrangement with Hoeft & Wessel on December 11.

Microsoft is continuing its campaign to convince PC and device makers running Android and Chrome OS that they should license Microsoft's patents to avoid licensing disputes in the future. Microsoft officials have not made public a list of the Microsoft patents on which the company claims Android infringes.

Over the past few years, Microsoft has signed patent-licensing deals with a number of key OEMs and ODMs (original design manufacturers) using Linux, Android and Chrome OS, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Buffalo, Compal, General Dynamics, HTC, LG Electronics, Pegatron, Samsung, TomTom, and Velocity Micro, among others.

Update: Microsoft also announced a similar patent-licensing deal on December 11 with EINS SE, which makes Android-based tablets sold under the Cat brand in Germany.

Topics: Patents, Android, Microsoft


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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  • that's disgusting!

    M$ is pillaging FOSS hard work.
    LlNUX Geek
    • More...

      FOSS is pillaging MS' hard work and now they have to pay for it...

      MS put in the R&D work to come up with certain pieces of technology. If FOSS software uses those technologies or techniques, they aren't magically exempt from the law, just because they release their software under FOSS licences.

      I might not agree with the current patent system, but as long as it stays as it is, if you include something that is already patented in your work, you have to pay for it.
      • You do know the patents are for a 30 year old filesystem, right?

        Almost every patent agreement with Android makers and MS are about 1 thing, Android being able to use FAT formatted memory cards. Yeah, real leading edge stuff alright.
        That is why so many new Android devices no longer have external memory slots. No removable media, no need for FAT, and no payday for MS.

        It is sad to see the only way for MS to keep making money is to bully these little companies using Android. MS will never try to extort money from Google or Samsung with these patents because those companies would fight, and win, in court.
        • Yeah

          And fix would be easily that manufacturers would sell their cards unformatted and then Android would format all cards to Ext4 (or other) filesystem.

          If OHA would make a working Ext4 driver for NT operating system what could be just installed and then get all Ext4 devices working flawlessly, it would make FAT family filesystems obsolete.
          • I would expect...

            ...that NTFS is also patent-encumbered. I doubt that MS releases anything any more that isn't covered by at least one undisclosed patent.
            John L. Ries
        • So that's why I don't have an SD card slot!

          Good to know. I'll make a point of buying phones so unequipped in the future (at least until MS' FAT patents either run out or are invalidated).
          John L. Ries
    • It's not really "open source"...

      ...if it's taking someone else's code or ideas.

      Ain't no such thing as a free lunch!
      • Open source has no MS code.

        If MS could prove any open source project has MS code in it, MS would shut it down ASAP, and rightly so.
        And the idea open source 'stole' is using the FAT filesystem that all external memory cards and USB drives come formatted with. The FAT/FAT32/NTFS drivers for Linux contain no MS code, it is all legally written code, no stolen code or reverse engineering involed.

        MS has no legal basis to prove damages, hence MS only goes after little companies, that have no means to fight, with these patents. MS is hoping, after they get enough of these agreements, that the courts will accept the agreements themselves as some kind of proof MS can use against companies their own size. Unfortunatly, with the way U.S. courts work (or don't work) they may be right.
        • When you say small company, did you include companies like Samsung?

          and General Dynamics and Motorola and HTC and so on and so on.

          If Microsoft had no case then those companies would fight and win against microsoft.

          Honestly, Samsung isn't afraid to fight against Apple in nearly a dozen court rooms all over the world. I'm sure they would take on Microsoft if they had a case.
      • Nope

        How many times Microsoft have get caught from using FOSS code in their products? Way too many times. But no one is suing them.

        How many times Microsoft has said Linux (the operating system what you can download fully from includes "stolen code" whats IP Microsoft controls?
        For over decade and even today continue to say so now and then.

        How many times Microsoft have given proofs that Linux includes its IP? None, nana, zip.... Never ever Microsoft have brought any kind proofs or source code or sued anyone from using Linux operating system.

        Microsoft is only going after those who make own code for Linux in Android or code for Android framework what infirings Microsoft IP and sues them. Android or Linux itself doesn't have any code in it what would do so.

        And whole IT world has copied a lot more from FOSS community. You get all visible and accessible. Even Microsoft use Samba as reference code for its products.
        It is always funny how Microsoft fans claims FOSS community steals others code and ideas, while closed source hides the functions, algorithms, ideas etc. Even decompilers can not give a code as it would be used to "steal".

        The whole patent system is today totally wrong. In first place, it was that patent owner had only a few years exclusive time to sell the product. After few years, society owned the idea and anyone could use it. But long time ago (not so long actually) the patent laws were changed in USA so that patent time was multiple decades. Copyright laws have gone exactly same change, from few years (like 5) to decades after copyright owners death. Why? Because Disney and many other are lobbying to extend the copyright law makers so Disney would not lose its cash cow.

        Technical patents should last only 4-5 years.
        Copyright should be only 10 years.

        After patent and copyright is gone, the idea/production etc becomes FOSS (not public domain as it can be closed again).

        What is so hard to understand that no one ever actually invents anything by themself? The society spends lots of time and money to educate people. To teach kids to read, to speak, to work together. And then suddenly when people are working and living in community all days long seeing and hearing what others do, what problems others have and what is needed, it is just 1+1 to get a "innovation".

        Todays patented ideas, designs etc are not innovative. They are all pushed to "inventors" head. People gets patents for functions and results what they have only got by observing nature trough microscope and so on. The nature has done the work and few people who just happend to look right thing at right time gets a patent to slow human race development.

        Humans have developed rapidly only because ideas are copied and shared freely and everyone have had right to repeat others work. Patent system idea is to slow down and even stop people sharing, improving and using what is needed.

        If we would remove patent system and force everything to be under FOSS kind license, human race would start developing faster and conquering all kind technical and social challenges much faster than allowing a few people or few corporations to slow down everyone else.

        No one gets idea what no one else would ever had. But still it is stupid that one person can get rights to dominate others and steal their ideas of improving others ideas further only because someone got patent first.

        Those who are defending patents and afraid of FOSS, are greedy and scared people who just want to protect the patent system as it is now in false hope that some day they are in same kind position that they can control others ideas and habits.

        Or then we can start really doing what patent system is, start demanding payments from every corporation about using citizens time, money, ideas etc and taking everything what company gains as taxes and share it between everyone. As not even those mightly CEOs have done anything without society and without society they would be nothing.
        • Microsoft's latest patent licensee: Android embedded device maker Hoeft & W

          most people have very vague idea about the real purpose of patent system as can be gleaned at the postings and the very attittude of people's representatives in both houses of congress. dmca is an affront to the basic tenet of the system as envisioned by the forefathers who had the wherewithal of dismantling the corrupt ways of the then british empire. but the same corrupt system is upon us once more and many people are supporting it just like in the olden days when nobody question the system...
    • What does Google have to do with "Free"OSS?

      Even if they are contributing to FOSS in terms of code base they are not exempt from STEALING. No body is. If Google goes non-profit I am sure Microsoft will stop this licensing the OEMs. You doubt it? Ask Google to go non-profit and see what they see else just stop using FOSS argument.
      • what are you talking about?

        Google isn't stealing anything and they aren't going non-profit... what crack-induced hypothetical situation are you trying to dream up here?
        • If it is difficult for your peabrain to comprehend

          Let me spell it out for you. Poster above said Microsoft is getting paid for the hard work of FOSS community. I said Android being Google product there is nothing "Free" since Google is using FOSS product to make money elsewhere.

          Then I offered a help to him and now apparently to you that if you feel so bad about Microsoft making money on technology they created and used by Google in Android then at least be reasonable that Microsoft too makes some money out of it and not just Google.

          Did you get your brain by birth or just bought it free as in FOSS Android?
          • ahem...

            You didn't address the fact that Google is NOT going nonprofit and you failed to show me where they stole back up and check yoself before you wreck yoself foo!

            If Google were stealing they would be in court. Simple as that. Have you seen any [Company]vGoogle court cases? I havent.

            Also I was born with my brain and it works very well. Not sure how I can "[buy] it free" ... That doesn't seven make sense. two posts in a row that havent made a lick of sense and already 6 flags between the two of them (none were me by the way, I only flag people that are extremely rude, you're inability to argue coherently just makes you're rudeness cute)... Maybe you should quit while you're ahead bro.
  • There is major problem

    I dont want to get into ethics of patents, about patent system or if MS deserves patents (or royalty etc). But I have a problem that MS is using wrong business practice here by not disclosing which of their patents are infringed by others.

    MS approaches small company, tell them that they are infringing on some of their patents but won't tell which ones (or if say then won't allow to disclose that).

    It is like police catching a citizen, telling him that he has broken a law, but won't tell which one, ask for ransom money to release and ask to keep mouth shut after taking that money.

    Only company which refused to cave in was Barns & Nobble; ultimately MS had to settle for much less than they hoped for. I think Google need to buy one of such small company amidst such negotiations and give MS tough time for their unethical practice.

    As I said in the beginning, my objection is not so much about the patents itself. MS may have valid patents and they may be asking for legitimate royalties for its usage; but the way of asking and maintaining secrecy is totally unethical.
  • This case is a text book example of what is wrong with the patent system.

    MS has never tried to get royalties from Kingston, SanDisk, or any other memory device maker that pre-formats with FAT or NTFS. Presumably, that does not cause MS any financial harm. However, if an Android device can use those memory devices as is, suddenly, that causes MS financial harm, as proof of financial harm is required to win a patent case. How can that be? It can't of course, and that's the problem with current patent law. The patent holder is allowed to pick and choose who they go after, without any need to consider reality.

    Ask yourselves:
    1) Why do Apple devices not support external memory?
    2) Why does MS not force memory card makers to pay for using FAT/NTFS.

    1) Apple wants nothing to do with any of this MS patent trolling.

    2) If MS went after memory card makers, the card makers would begin formatting devices with an open source filesystem like EXT(2,3, or 4) and distribute the EXT driver for Windows on a CD-Rom emulating portion of the memory device. Apple and Linux already support EXT. Within a year, the MS strangle hold on external memory filesystems evaporates and so does MS's ability to extort money for 30 year old technology.
    • Load of BS time?

      1) Why do Apple devices not support external memory?

      They do.

      but your answer that "Apple wants nothing to do with any of this MS patent trolling" for one is wrong because it's not trolling if they designed and patented it. Just because people don't want to give their stuff away for free doesn't make them a troll.

      that's like saying that you're a troll for trading in your car instead of giving to the dealer for free.

      Also, MS and Apple have agreements on many things going years back. The new people obviouslly don't. Yet.

      2) Why does MS not force memory card makers to pay for using FAT/NTFS.

      How do you know they don't pay MS for that? Have they told you they don't pay MS for that, or do you "just know"?

      But in all seriousness, you're answer for #2 was funny and imaginative.
      William Farrel
      • ...

        "How do you know they don't pay MS for that? Have they told you they don't pay MS for that, or do you "just know"? "

        you cant cahrge the sd card companies for the patent then turn around and charge the people that use those sd cards for the same patent... that is called double dipping... and is illegal...
    • actually

      Apple and Microsoft have a cross-licensing deal in place already. There are certain patents they can use of each others without suing. Apple doesn't have storage cards so they control the entire sales process end-to-end. Having removable storage would make it easier to sideload apps.