Microsoft gets defence contractor to pay over Android

The software giant has signed a deal with General Dynamics Itronix covering the use of Microsoft's patents in Android-based portable computers, but details of the patents involved are scarce

Microsoft has got a subsidiary of the US defence contractor General Dynamics to pay up for Android patents being used in wearable computers.

GD300 wearable computer

Microsoft has reached a patent agreement with General Dynamics Itronix, maker of the Android-based GD300 wearable computer. Photo credit: General Dynamics Itronix

In a brief statement issued on Monday, Microsoft said it and General Dynamics Itronix had signed a patent agreement "that provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for General Dynamics Itronix devices running the Android platform".

Neither company disclosed details of the deal, but General Dynamics Itronix makes a wearable computer called the GD300 that runs on Android. The device, launched in 2010, can be used as a standalone GPS unit or — when hooked up to an appropriate radio — as a tactical mission computer.

"We are pleased to have reached this agreement with General Dynamics Itronix, which is an example of how industry leaders address intellectual property," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's head lawyer for intellectual property, said in the statement.

Mark Johnston, General Dynamics Itronix's director of strategic computing, said in the statement that the "completion of this agreement enables Itronix to meet the evolving demands of our customers with more diverse applications and increased functionality in products that incorporate the Android platform".

The deal is not the first Microsoft has struck to get licensing money out of companies using Android, as a similar arrangement was agreed between Microsoft and HTC in April 2010. As with that deal, the identity of the patents covered by the General Dynamics Itronix agreement remains undisclosed.

Previous suits

However, a hint as to the patents' nature can be found in past lawsuits Microsoft has filed against companies it has accused of violating its patents via Android implementations.

The first big suit came in October 2010, when the software maker said Motorola's Android phones infringed on patents relating to the synchronisation of emails, calendars and contacts, and notifying apps about signal strength and battery power changes.

In March, Microsoft said Barnes & Noble's Android-based Nook e-reader and Nook Color tablet infringed on Microsoft patents relating to navigating through information; displaying web-page content before the background image has resolved; allowing apps to superimpose download status on top of downloading content; letting users select and adjust text; and allowing users to annotate text without changing the underlying document.

At the time, Gutierrez said the suit — which was aimed at Barnes & Noble and its suppliers Inventec and Foxconn — brought to 25 the number of Microsoft patents being litigated over in relation to Android devices.

ZDNet UK has asked both Microsoft and General Dynamics Itronix to explain which patents are covered by the new licensing deal, but had not received this information at the time of writing.

Get the latest technology news and analysis, blogs and reviews delivered directly to your inbox with ZDNet UK's newsletters.