Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec over Android patent infringement

Microsoft has taken legal action against Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec over five patent infringements involving Android.

Microsoft has taken legal action against Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec over five patent infringements involving Android.

This from the Microsoft press release:

"The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights. To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers," said Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property & Licensing. "HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, has taken a license under this program. We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market," he added.

Microsoft also has a blog post about the legal action which sheds more light on the subject:

As you may have seen, Microsoft today filed legal actions against Barnes & Noble, Inc., Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., and Inventec Corporation in both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. Today's actions focus on the patent infringement by the Nook e-reader and the Nook Color tablet, both of which run the Android operating system.

Together with the patents already asserted in the course of our litigation against Motorola, today's actions bring to 25 the total number of Microsoft patents in litigation for infringement by Android smartphones, tablets and other devices. Microsoft is not a company that pursues litigation lightly. In fact, this is only our seventh proactive patent infringement suit in our 36-year history. But we simply cannot ignore infringement of this scope and scale.

In that blog post Microsoft is also keen to point out that it's not trigger-happy when it comes o lawsuits, pointing out that this is the company's seventh proactive patent infringement suit in its 36-year history.

How does this affect Amazon's Kindle? It doesn't, because Amazon has already signed a patent license with Microsoft covering this device. 

Going after manufacturers is an interesting move. For example, by suing Foxconn, Microsoft is having an effect on other companies that use Foxconn to manufacture their Android devices - companies such as Acer, Asus, Dell, Samsung and SonyEricsson. I think that overall this might be more important, and certainly have more of a long-reaching effect, than the lawsuit against Barnes & Noble.

Intellectual property activist Florian Mueller has taken a look at the court documents and found the five patents in question:

  • US Patent No. 5,778,372 on "remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images"
  • US Patent No. 6,339,780 on "Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area" (this is the one that was previously also asserted against Motorola)
  • US Patent No. 5,889,522 on "system provided child window controls"
  • US Patent No. 6,891,551 on "selection handles in editing electronic documents"
  • US Patent No. 6,957,233 on "Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content"

 Bring out the popcorn. This could get interesting!

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