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Microsoft Signs Android Patent Deal with LG

Microsoft's patent parade continued last week with another deal that further solidifies its strategy of making friends rather than enemies in the smartphone market.

Microsoft's patent parade continued last week with another deal that further solidifies its strategy of making friends rather than enemies in the smartphone market.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant signed a patent agreement with smartphone maker LG on Thursday, the latest in the company's streak of intellectual property deals over the use of Google's Android and Chrome OS platforms.

"We are pleased to have built upon our longstanding relationship with LG to reach a mutually beneficial agreement," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group, in a prepared statement.

Microsoft has not disclosed the specific terms of that agreement, though past IP agreements with other Android device makers entailed Microsoft receiving royalties from the device makers' use of Android in their products.

So far, Microsoft says it has signed similar deals with 10 Android and Chrome OS device makers: HTC, Wistron, Velocity Micro, Onkyo, General Dynamics Itronix, Acer, ViewSonic, Samsung, Quanta Computer and Compal Electronics. After Microsoft inked the deal with Compal in October 2011, Gutierrez claimed that "more than half of the world's ODM [original design manufacturing] industry for Android and Chrome devices is now under license to Microsoft's patent portfolio."

This week's LG deal means that Microsoft's patent portfolio now covers 70 percent of all Android devices sold in the United States, Gutierrez said. "We are proud of the continued success of our program in resolving the IP issues surrounding Android and Chrome OS."

Google last year accused Microsoft, along with Apple and Oracle, of waging "a hostile, organized campaign against Android." Microsoft's responses to Google's allegations at the time took the form of Tweets. After the LG deal was announced, several Microsoft executives once again took to Twitter to fire some volleys in Google's direction.

From Frank Shaw, Microsoft's vice president of corporate communications:

Hey Google -- we are the 70% #anotherandroidlicense

Can we just agree to drop the patents-as-weapons meme? When effective licensing enables companies to share IP, the metaphor falls apart

And from Brad Smith, Microsoft general counsel and executive vice president:

It's time to recognize that in #patent world, lawsuits are the 1%; license agreements are the 99%. #anotherandroidlicense

The Ongoing Patent War over Android
Two other Android device makers are currently fighting Microsoft in the courts over patent infringement allegations. In March 2011, Microsoft filed suit against bookseller Barnes & Noble, which sells the Nook e-reader and the Nook Color Tablet device, claiming that the devices violate five of Microsoft's patents. Microsoft has since cut the number of disputed patents to four.

Microsoft's October 2010 suit against Motorola is also ongoing. Microsoft's suit initially alleged that Motorola's devices infringed on nine of Microsoft's patents, though it eventually withdrew two of them. In December 2011, an initial ruling by the U.S. International Trade Commission said that Motorola infringed on only one of those seven remaining patents.

Google itself became involved in Microsoft's suit against Motorola when it accused Microsoft of improperly sharing Android code with one of the expert witnesses in the case. A judge later denied Google's complaint.

Further complicating matters is Google's planned acquisition of Motorola Mobility, presumably in an effort to buttress its own patent portfolio against Microsoft's lawsuits. "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies," said Google CEO Larry Page at the time. The acquisition is still pending approval both in the United States and in Europe.

In the meantime, Microsoft has filed another suit against Motorola Mobility for as-yet undisclosed reasons.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the senior site producer for Redmondmag.com, RCPmag.com and MCPmag.com.

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