Samsung signs Android licensing deal with Microsoft

The Korean company will pay Microsoft royalties for each Android device it sells, under a cross-licensing deal that also sees it work with Microsoft on Windows Phone hardware

Samsung has signed a cross-licensing deal with Microsoft that will see the Windows maker get royalties for every Android-based smartphone and tablet made by the Korean manufacturer.

Samsung Galaxy Android phone

Samsung will pay Microsoft royalties for each Android device it sells, under a cross-licensing deal. Photo credit: Bonnie Cha/CNET News

The deal, announced on Wednesday, covers intellectual property from both companies' patent portfolios. In addition to paying an undisclosed amount for the use of the Android operating system, Samsung has agreed to work with Microsoft on the development of new phones for the rival Windows Phone platform.

"Together with the licence agreement signed last year with HTC, today's agreement with Samsung means that the top two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired licences to Microsoft's patent portfolio," Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez said in a blog post. "These two companies together accounted for more than half of all Android phones sold in the US over the past year."

Conspicuous by its absence from the list of Android licensees is Motorola Mobility, which is embroiled in a patent battle with Microsoft. The Motorola offshoot is in line to be bought by Android-backer Google, which said in August that it will pay $12.5bn (£7.6bn) for the company. Google itself is involved in a lawsuit with Oracle over its implementation of Java technology in the Android operating system.

At the time, Google said its purchase of Motorola Mobility, which will bring it more than 17,000 patents granted and 7,000 patents pending, would help strengthen the Android patent portfolio and help protect the open-source operating system against future patent claims.

Licensing campaign

Microsoft has been conducting a campaign to get hardware makers to agree to licensing deals that will protect them from litigation related to their use of the Android OS on handsets and tablets. Samsung is the seventh to sign in the past three months, after Acer, General Dynamics Itronix, Onkyo, Velocity Micro, ViewSonic and Wistron. Microsoft also negotiated a similar deal with HTC.

"We recognise that some businesses and commentators — Google chief among them — have complained about the potential impact of patents on Android and software innovation," Smith and Gutierrez said. "To them, we say this: look at today's announcement. If industry leaders such as Samsung and HTC can enter into these agreements, doesn't this provide a clear path forward?"

Other manufacturers with Android-based hardware are likely to follow suit, according to Carolina Milanesi, mobile analyst at Gartner. "I have not seen the specifics of this, but I imagine Samsung is following in the steps of HTC. I would imagine LG will be next," she told ZDNet UK.


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