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Looking for details on Microsoft's Android patents
September 29, 2011 7:12 AM   Subscribe

What patents does Microsoft own related to Android and where did those patents originate?

I haven't had much luck wading through all the noise out there, so I'm hoping someone here has the details I'm wondering about.

Specifically...
How did MSFT come to own the patents in question?
Where did these patents come from originally and how have they been used previously (or not)?
Were some of these patents part of the Nortel deal?
Are the patents explicitly related to Android or just the means by which Android accomplishes certain tasks?
And if the later is true, why wouldn't these patents also apply to iOS or other mobile operating systems?
posted by mullacc to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You can get a lot of background on this at FOSS Patents.

why wouldn't these patents also apply to iOS or other mobile operating systems?

Who says they don't? Apple and Microsoft have cross-licensed patents in the past, and they could have in this case as well.
posted by alms at 7:23 AM on September 29, 2011


Some of the confusion, I think, is that Microsoft (for obvious reason) likes to conflate "patents used by Android phones" with "patents on Android". Microsoft has a technology licensing page which might give you some further clues as to what they really have.
posted by three blind mice at 7:27 AM on September 29, 2011


"Google is really unable to protect HTC because they don't have any portfolio of patents in this area," said Gartner analyst Ken Dulaney. Microsoft, by contrast, has a broad portfolio and a patent cross-licensing deal with Apple that probably covers HTC's use of Windows Mobile, though perhaps not other things that HTC has done on its Windows Mobile-based phones.
posted by empath at 7:29 AM on September 29, 2011




Microsoft won't come out and say what patents their competitors infringe. They won't do it with Linux, Android, etc. It's not in their best interests to disclose which.
posted by introp at 7:53 AM on September 29, 2011


One of the patents that they almost certainly infringe is the VFAT longfilename patent. Whether that patent ought to have been awarded is another question altogether, but if you're a smartphone maker & you want your SD cards to be readable by windows users, then you pretty much have to put a fat filesystem on them & that means infringing on the longfilename patent if you want to have proper filenames.

You could put an ext2 filesystem on & export a PTP USB interface to allow file transfer, but no one seems willing to do that.

Of course, there are other operating system patents that Microsoft asserts that Linux infringes, but since they won't say which ones they are it's impossible to say how strong those claims are. Essentially it's a shakedown: defending yourself against a patent infringement suit, even if the patent is a joke, can be a very expensive business, and everyone knows that Microsoft has a pile of patents so they cave in, since doing so is probably cheaper than the cost of defending the lawsuit, and almost certainly cheaper than defended said lawsuit and then losing.

IBM used to do the same thing to IT companies back in the day: read up on Sun's experience sometime.
posted by pharm at 8:08 AM on September 29, 2011


Microsoft won't come out and say what patents their competitors infringe. They won't do it with Linux, Android, etc. It's not in their best interests to disclose which.


Evenutally you have to. It would need to be in any court docs.
posted by JPD at 8:13 AM on September 29, 2011


There is a listing and discussion of specific patents in Android dispute: Microsoft thumps Motorola 17-5 in ITC patent claim construction.
posted by alms at 8:38 AM on September 29, 2011


This is a great This American Life episode that I highly recommend anybody listening to that addresses software patents. It addresses most of the issues raised so far in this thread.
posted by General Malaise at 8:40 AM on September 29, 2011


How did MSFT come to own the patents in question?

MSFT is constantly busy patenting everything they can find. They strongly encourage engineers to identify anything they are working on that might be patentable, and have lawyers hanging around whose whole job is to write those things up into patents. The patents get filed with the employees' names on them, but MSFT management makes it as easy as possible; the engineers don't have to write up the legalese or do any of the form-filling. They just have to describe what they did and sign off on the patent at the end.

In fact, while I worked at Microsoft I had to go to some minor length to get my name removed from a patent application. One of the leads on the sprawling mess of a project I worked on found some trivial feature of the architecture which could plausibly be construed as novel. It was an entirely predictable consequence of the design constraints, but whatever, it got written up and legalized and filed, and the lawyers listed everyone who helped implement it as a co-inventor.

Now, what good is this patent? Nobody is ever going to read it, think "hey that's a good idea", and contact Microsoft to ask about licensing terms. In all likelihood nobody is ever going to read it at all, for any reason. No, Microsoft is simply going to do things like this all the time, in every team, all over the company, accumulating a giant wall of patents.

Then, when some upstart looks troublesome, they can send over a shark-toothed lawyer with an moving truck full of paper, and the lawyer can point at it and say "look, we have 40,000 patents here; I'm sure you're violating at least one of them. You wouldn't want to spend the next few years in court finding out, would you? So why don't you cut us the deal we want."

Microsoft won't come out and say what patents their competitors infringe.

They might not even know. They might just now they have ten thousand patents on, let's say, mobile phone apps, and assume that if push comes to shove they'll be able to find something that applies, somehow. But why should they pay for all those hours of paralegal time if they can just bluster their opponents into submission?
posted by Mars Saxman at 10:10 AM on September 29, 2011 [1 favorite]


Damn, what a mess. I shouldn't be surprised though.
posted by mullacc at 11:45 AM on September 29, 2011




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