Microsoft sues Kyocera over Android smartphones

Microsoft is seeking a US ban on sales of several Kyocera Android smartphones that it contends violates its patents.

Microsoft is suing Japanese electronics firm Kyocera, alleging the company's Duraforce, Hydro, and Brigadier Android smartphones violate seven of Microsoft patents.

Amid the smartphone industry's ongoing patent wars, Microsoft has repeatedly touted its licensing agreements with Android handset makers as preferable to litigation. Along the way, it's notched up deals with dozens of hardware makers, including OEMs such as Samsung and the lesser-known companies responsible for making most of the world's smartphones, such as Foxconn.

While it may prefer to negotiate licensing agreements, Microsoft isn't above using legal action. On Friday it asked a Seattle court for a US sales injunction to be placed on the three phones from Kyocera, claiming that the lines and other phones from the company infringe its patents.

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"We respect Kyocera but we believe they need to license the patented technology they are using. We're hopeful this case can be resolved amicably," Microsoft deputy general counsel David Howard said.

According to court documents posted by Foss Patents, the patents cover a broad array of mobile technologies that Microsoft contends are violated by the Android devices.

Microsoft's licensing arrangements have turned out to be a lucrative source of income from the smartphone industry that it has struggled to gain a foothold in with its Windows Phone OS. In 2013, Microsoft extracted $3.4bn from licensing agreements, much of it from Android OEMs that already struggle to turn a profit.

While Microsoft's licensing strategy has met with a number of notable wins, it's also had less luck in the few cases it's taken to court. Despite challenging Motorola Mobility on 17 Motorola patents through numerous legal avenues, the software giant has only seen success with one pertaining to ActiveSync.

Among those who Microsoft has sued are Barnes and Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec, in a 2011 suit over the Nook reader that was later settled.

More recently, Microsoft sued Samsung after the Korean company attempted to exit the licensing agreement that netted Microsoft $1bn in 2013. Samsung said Microsoft's Nokia acquisition last year breached the business collaboration part of the agreement, arguing that since Microsoft became a hardware competitor, the pair could no longer share trade secrets without drawing charges of collusion. The pair settled the dispute on February 9.

Kyocera had not responded to request for comment at the time of publication.

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