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back to article Microsoft bags two more Android patent deals

Microsoft has inked two more patent licensing agreements with Android hardware manufacturers. Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have each signed agreements with Redmond that will mean Microsoft receives royalties on Android tablets sold by the two companies. Details of the agreements were not revealed, but it's standard practice …

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Windows

Which patents exactly?

Are they like the Linux ones?

Imaginary?

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insert title

Consensus is it's for the FAT filing system....

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Which patents...

If the tom-tom one is anything to go by, they're patents for the FAT32 file system, which is required if you want to plug your device into a windows box and use it as a flash drive.

Windows doesn't natively support any file systems which they haven't incumbered with patents, so it's catch 22.

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Windows

Re "Which patents exactly?" Yes, that is a point that has puzzled me......

....and I have done quite a bit of "clicking" trying to find out. Whilst I have no doubt that MS is (in common with the rest of "BigCorp") fully capable of behaving like a patent troll now and then the question remains, are they doing so on *this* occasion. I realise that this will not earn me any brownie points amongst some of the S-key dyslexics here at El Reg but without that information it is impossible to *know* whether that is the case this time. Microsoft may very well have acceptable/unacceptable motivation for being tight-lipped about which patents are involved but why are the ones (several of whom are big enough not to need to automatically bend over for MS) who are refusing to pay up not letting it be known what the alleged breeches are if they are confident of their case? PR is after all and integral part of this kind of how's your father normally - why not this time?

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Windows

And furthemore, what about the dog that has not barked?

..........We have not heard so much as a "woof" out of Mountain View so far, have we? When you consider that Apple went into bat recently (albeit somewhat slowly) for their partners it is striking that all we are hearing from Google is a deafening silence.

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Linux

Yeah and probably ...

Exchange connectivity as well as FAT32.

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Mushroom

Nice business you've got here

Would be a shame if you had to go bankrupt fighting our lawyers, now wouldn't it?

See, there is the easy way, and there is the hard way...

I miss the grenade.

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FAIL

plagiarisms...

I bet the same people were celebrating when microsoft lost their office xml patent case. So patents are good when they work for you only. Patents and software copying is not something to be proud of. Should we let the Chess programmer off too?? He did copy other' people's code. Call it patent call it whatever I can't condone it. You don't know what exactly the case details are, there must be something very strong behind it.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: plagiarisms...

> So patents are good when they work for you only

Copying code is covered by copyright - doesn't have to have anything to do with patents.

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Unhappy

More future purchases ruled out

I'm not sure that I have come accross anything made by either of those two comapnies, but it just narrows the choice down further.

I wasn't even aware that money from the sale of Kindles was used to support (legal) criminal activity (patent trolling extortion). That makes the choice between it and the Nook easier especially if they are resisting the blackmail demands,

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WTF?

This has got to stop

Why havn't Google called M$ out for whatever the corp. version of defamation?

Their silence sounds like a tacit admission.

Someone needs to put a stop to this licencing-by-strongarm tactic. Come on, google - speak out!

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FAIL

Google woke up to late

They failed to mass patents, and now they have no ammunition in the patent war. If they tried to go on Microsoft now they would lose.

Google's lack of a patent war chest is why they go after Nortel's patent portfolio. Even though Microsoft are protected against those specific patents, having licensed them, it will go towards strengthening Google's positioning in the global patent war.

We live in a sad state of affairs when it is more important to have as many patents as possible rather than actually innovate. It is even sadder that trivial patents are allowed to exist.

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Simples

Microsoft hide the meat of their case and no-one knows what they are fighting against, we assume it's FAT32 behind the curtain but we don't know until a case goes to court. Step up if you want to be the first blown out of the water so that the rest can weigh up their options.

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Flame

Two more go on to the list.

Nice how MS have moved on to bullying the small fry.

Step one: Use your best buddy HTC to give the extortion racket a degree of legitimacy.

Step Two: Point to HTC and threaten the smaller players in to following suit.

Microsoft need to die. They do nothing but harm not only to the IT industry, but now they have moved on to the mobile phone and CE industries as well. Apart from some Kalahari tribesmen and the odd tribe in the Amazon there is hardly a person on this planet who has not been harmed by some degree, however small, by Microsoft and their sociopathic behaviours.

Kill them. Kill them with fire

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@Goat Jam

Steady, now! Remember, you're likely to get arrested in the UK for making daft threats!

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Boffin

RE: Two more go on to the list.

If M$'s arguments were so weak it is highly likley that Google would have stepped in to support their customers. After all, Google wants Android to succeed. I'm pretty sure the "free-till-I-die" people like the OSF would be all over this if M$ didn't have at least some grounds. Unless we get some leaks from those lecensees already bitten, it seems we are unlikely to uncover exactly patents M$ clubbed them with, but that might change when they get round to a bigger opponent (such as Motorola).

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Pint

Not so small.

>> Nice how MS have moved on to bullying the small fry.

General Dynamics is the fifth largest defense contractor in the world.

Guns. Tanks. Submarines.

But 34% of its revenues come from IT services and technologies. The first NSA certified smartphone, for example.

Obama's smartphone.

All this amd more you will find sketched out in the Wikipedia.

The geek can't argue that General Dynamics is a company without technical competence or financial resources.

It is not a company known for being easily pushed around.

If it sees a problem with Android --- it just might be because there - is - a problem with Android.

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Trollface

Great, more FUD

>Microsoft is adamant that Android violates its patents. The chief financial officer for Microsoft's mobile communications business in September 2010 told investors: "It [Android] does infringe on a bunch of patents, and there's a cost associated with that." This cost would seem to be legal and licensing.

I dont know if its some liberal interpretation from the author or if the CFO really said that Android specifically infringe on MS patents, but in any case it's most likely untrue. When someone has a problem with Android they go after Google, not after the hardware vendors. See the ongoing Oracle vs Google spat about Java.

What is more likely here is that the vendors include some VFAT-formatted storage (on *that*, MS has a few patents) and possibly issues with Exchange compatibility, as suggested by someone else in response to the previous article on that topic. MS has spent the best of the last 3 decades trying to persuade the world that Linux infringes on some of their patents (which would apply to Android, it being a Linux distro), but they always failed to make a real case. They just spread unsubstanciated fears, as a form of damage control. Trolls, trolls, trolls.

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WTF?

If that is the case...

You have to ask why one earth are the vendors still using vfat? Can the phone not itself not include suitable ext3/4 Windows drivers that get installed when you first connect the phone? Or do the vendors just like getting punched in the face by the school bully?

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Boffin

RE: Great, more FUD

"......When someone has a problem with Android they go after Google, not after the hardware vendors...." Follow the money, dummy! If M$ sues Google all they get is a big bill from the lawyers and no doubt plenty of attention from monopolies commissions, and all Google have to do is point out they give Android away for free to stop a request for money. If M$ pushes Google too hard then Google may rewrite whatever bits are impacted by M$'s patents, and then release that code for free to other people that could use it to get round M$'s patents. If M$ get licence deals with Android handset vendors then they get a revenue stream, their patents saty valuable, and they don't run up massive legal bills either. Seeing as Android is growing so fast, it looks like a nice revenue stream to have!

Linux is different, I think you'll find the biggest anit-Linux swingers were actually SCO and Sun. Although M$ made lots of noise, their dominance in the desktop, netbook and server markets meant they didn't really need to be too aggressive and eventually they didn't need more attention from monopolies commissions. Phones are different, M$ can afford to throw their weight around without getting too much attention from the authorities as they are not leading the phone OS segment.

The fact that - so far - just about every vendor has coughed up quickly implies M$ has a good case, even if they are "bogus" patents. I suspect it is to do with FAT storage of one type or another, which M$ seem to have zeroed in on as a solid case for licence deals. What we need is for someone like Motorola to take it to court so the World+dog can examine the patents, then maybe someone clever can write something free to get round the patents.

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Vic
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RE: Great, more FUD

> The fact that - so far - just about every vendor has coughed up quickly

> implies M$ has a good case

It does no such thing.

What it implies is that the US legal system is tilted in favour of patent owners and that it is cripplingly expensive to fight and win a case.

A company paying the Danegeld says nothing about the validity of any patents - it's just cheaper to pay off the trolls than to fight for what is right.

Vic.

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@ocular

They wouldnt use ext3 or ext4 of course, a journalling FS is a bad idea on Flash storage, but why they aren't using ext2 is anyone's guess. Perhaps because of the "FAT is what everyone uses" type of argument.

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@ Matt: Matt, matt matt...

The core of your argument is:

>follow the money, dummy

That would usually hold. If you assume that Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have more cash than Google. I find this assumption, erm, quite bold, to say the least.

As the rest of your argument depends on it, I feel like I don't really have to discuss the relevance of Motorola (or, indeed, lack thereof), the dominance of MS in the server or netbook market (or, indeed, lack thereof), the need for new patent-free filesystems (or indeed lack thereof; there are plenty to choose from), the difference between Android and Linux (or, indeed, the lack thereof), or any such tiny details.

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FAIL

RE: @ Matt: Matt, matt matt...

".....That would usually hold. If you assume that Onkyo Corp and Velocity Micro have more cash than Google...." No, what you need to see is which companies MAKE MONEY FROM ANDROID as they are the targets M$ is hitting. Regardless of how much money Google has from other activities, Google gives Android away free, it is effectively a loss-leader for them. Even the Nexus was an HTC jobbie in Google drag. Google make a sum total of zero dollars from Android. In fact, probably a loss, but a minus sign would just confuse you so let's stay with zero dollars. The handset vendors are the ones that make money selling handsets with Android installed. You got that? Zero dollars, versus lots of dollars. Concentrate, see which is the bigger figure? And that figure is getting bigger as Android has the fastest growing share of the market. So M$ will target the handset vendors.

Now, I suggest you stop reading here as the remainder of this post is speculation about business stuff and likely well over your head. Each company M$ signs up to their patent licencing scheme sends M$ money for every Android phone they sell, so that rapidly growing Android market share is a rapidly growing revenue stream to M$ for very little outlay. Each vendor signed up sets a stronger and stronger precedent to go clout more handset vendors with. It also increases the cost of making each Android phone, therefore allowing M$ to compete better with their own phone OS (in fact, you could say the patents revenue allows M$ to offset some of the cost of their own phone OS development and marketting, making them even more competitive). After all, M$ is not obliged to sell a licence to any handset vendor, so taking away say their FAT licence would kill their ability to use many external devices. Not nice, but then this is business.

Now, would an adult please take Pierre back to the ballpit?

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ridiculous claims

Most of the companies fall to this bullying and blackmailing.

It's a shame and explains why Microsoft is so big despite its products.

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Linux

We desperately need

someone to leak exactly which patents Microsoft are using as the tip of the wedge.

Whilst I believe they should be challenged, the likely ones are Fat32 patents that are often quoted, #5,579,517 and #5,758,352. Unfortunately, these look like they still have 5 and 7 years respectively to run.

Maybe Microsoft are trying to make sure they get maximum value from these by building up a long list of licensees before the patents become useless for trolling.

Now, to reformat the microSD card used in my 'Phone to ext2 or journal-less ext4. I don't need no steenkin' Windows compatibility to attach to my Linux systems!

Actually, interesting point. Why don't companies making Android devices ship an ext2 driver for Windows as part of the application suite for their devices, and remove Fat support? After all, most users are used to putting buckets of crap on their Windows systems as soon as they get a new device. Why not a new filesystem? I know that there will be problems using cards from other devices, but how often to most people do that? Most people use the microSD card as fixed memory, and I'm sure that many would have to think hard about where the microSD card actually is.

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Unhappy

Most of the companies fall to this bullying and blackmailing.

That's because most of the companies run a cost / benefit analysis and come down in favor of paying the Danegelt.

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because...

begin_quote "Actually, interesting point. Why don't companies making Android devices ship an ext2 driver for Windows as part of the application suite for their devices, and remove Fat support? After all, most users are used to putting buckets of crap on their Windows systems as soon as they get a new device. Why not a new filesystem? I know that there will be problems using cards from other devices, but how often to most people do that? Most people use the microSD card as fixed memory, and I'm sure that many would have to think hard about where the microSD card actually is." end_quote

Microsoft will make it very awkward for users to install said driver for alternate filesystem by holding up the signing process and possibly stalling the signing process for any other drivers from that company that need resigning... nVidia fell foul of Microsoft by supporting Linux too much with the open source GL drivers for nVidia cards... Microsoft retalitated by holding up signing nVidia's drivers for Vista...

They'll also sneakilly ensure that said driver when installed unsigned will result in deliberately lost files every now and then and the occasional scrambled filesystem... just to rub it in... try providing evidence of this underhanded deliberate crippling of alternate products will be extremely difficult and involve huge legal costs...

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Re: because

"Microsoft will make it very awkward for users to install said driver for alternate filesystem by holding up the signing process and possibly stalling the signing process for any other drivers from that company that need resigning..."

Technically, you don't need Microsoft's signature on a driver, even on 64-bit systems. You only need a signature from one of a small list of CAs and not all of those are part-owned by MS. :)

What you *can* get is a counter-signature from the MS quality control group. If you don't, there is a prompt from Windows to ask the user if they trust the vendor. Since the vendor is named and will presumably match the branding on the device the end-user has just bought, it isn't very scary to be asked "Do you want to install the vendor's driver for this new toy?".

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Meh

Hmmmm. Forgot about the driver signing process.

I just don't use Windows enough for that to have been immediately apparent.

However ext2 IFS (http://www.fs-driver.org/) appears to be signed already, at least for Windows Vista. I know that Microsoft could withdraw the signing certificate, but...

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yeah but ...

Surely it's easy as pie to circumvent driver signing?

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Stop

It's all about the user experience

Simply because the user experience would suck horribly.

In addition, VFAT is ubiquitous in boot-loaders commonly used with ARM SoCs in most of these products. At least this is a problem that could be solved with a bit of engineering.

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Imaginary?

Yup, imaginary. Cookie cutter "claim charts" with no actual content. This is bullying with the threat of an, at best, dubious lawsuit, nothing more.

"expert patent troll/lobbyist Florian Mueller", I think you meant. To be fair, I'm pretty sure he was never in the SS.

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WTF?

Now I guess it would be a good time

for Free Software Foundation to send their lawyers for an extensive licensing audit at those companies and see if the patents licensed from Microsoft are covering GPL'd software being actively distributied. If Linux infringes on something then all this must be made public so we can all work to correct it.

Those companies must know they are not allowed to sign patent agreements on behalf of the Linux community. When Microsoft came a their door claiming IP infringement all those companies should have turn to the FSF to make them aware of those claims. If they didn't do it and if indeed Linux is infringing some patents then they are themselves on the wrong side of the copyright law.

It is as simple as that!

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IT Angle

prove it microsoft.

If there is an issue with infringed patents Microsoft, man up and prove it by taking google to court. I know it will cost you millions instead of making you millions, but at least you won't look like criminals and then the next time you claim you're open source friendly it will at least sound feasible.

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why?

why exactly would they do this?

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Devil

Defamation/Extortion?

Perhaps google could file a defamation claim against Microsoft? This would force them to name the patents in question or withdraw the infringement claim? Im not really well up on law but common sense says that its taking the piss to make claims and refuse to back them up whilst making money from them. Smacks of extortion to me.

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Headmaster

"ss patents expert and blogger Florian Mueller"

Wow, I thought that organisation had been disbanded in 1945. Good to see they're moving with the times and keeping up on the patents business....

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Vic
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If Florian points it out, you know it's nonsense.

> What's curious ... is that these three companies are not exactly the biggest OEMs

It's not at all curious. It's exactly the same process that every racketeer has followed since the dawn of time.

You start off picking on those that can't fight back. This gives you momentum - you've got the resource you get from the small-fry paying his protection money, and you've got the FUD from clueless commentators who think there might be smoe legitimacy in such action.

Only after you've got enough of those under your belt do you have a chance of frightening the real players into settling; before that, you'd be wiped out.

If Micrososft really had a case against Android, they'd tell us what it is - in public, with facts instead of innuendo. It would wipe out Android overnight, leaving them to clean up in what remains of the market.

Microsoft's silence is deafening...

vic.

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Holmes

Bloody Americans

If it wasn't for their patent system, things would be more like the games industry was thirty years ago... the winne was the person who presented the better version of a game. The stupid f*ck who couldn't make a game for toffee wouldn't be allowed to corner the market with a good idea, but lousy delivery.

At the very least, idea patent, especially in the fast moving market of tech, should only last for a very short number of years ... because todays new invention is tomorrows standard feature and ... if all of yester years new inventions continually have to be paid for, then the cost of any future product will rise exponentially as all these past inventions continue to be paid for.

Possibly licence renumeration should be halved every year until it reaches one penny per unit, and then die.

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Stop

This is why...

I avoid all MS products when possible and recommend alternatives whenever anyone asks. So when the shills realise this exists & start the big MS love-in...

I don't care when MS accidentally manages to put out a half decent product they are still a bunch of total wankers who need to be punched repeatedly in the face.

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Explain to me...

I build a product (a phone) using someone else's parts (in this case, Android). But I get sued for the copyright infringement of the parts?

If *Android* is the problem, then stop going after the "users" and go after the people who make it available. Until you do, STFU.

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Vic
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Re: Explain to me...

> But I get sued for the copyright infringement of the parts?

No.

This is about *patents*. Not copyright.

> If *Android* is the problem

We don't know that it is.

All we know is that MS are targetting certain implementations of their competitor's system. Until and unless one of the defendants spills the beans on what they're being sued over, we can only guess at what their beef is.

Vic.

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Flame

Actually... Microsoft soon WILL have "legitimate" patents...

...because the Obama administration is already half-way through the process of completely re-writing the U.S. Patent-system, specifically to allow big corporations to patent anything that hasn't been patented before... whether they created it, or even if it has already been used by others. And, guess who one of the biggest supporters of this, so-called, "Patent Reform", was..? YUP... that's a big MS-YES..!

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Anonymous Coward

Oh great...

...so who is going to file a patent on the wheel?

I REALLY hope they do ... and then this whole sorry shambles will HAVE to be torn down as no one will take the US seriously.

Oh sorry ... nobody does now. My mistake.

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Anonymous Coward

No MS fan here but..

this is just total nonsense !

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FAIL

VFAT

I' m 99% sure this is another VFAT patent thing, just like TomTom. That's why they go after the manufacturers, not Google.

Can we *really* stop using this braindead(*) FAT format and move to something more current and up-to-date? Please.

(*) Having been on the implementation side for (V)FAT in some projects, I can assure you it is braindead and really shows its age.

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FAIL

Dear Microsoft

Evidence or GTFO.

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Mushroom

Come on Google -- free some file system drivers for Windows!

I wish Google would carry on the work they're doling in de-patenting CODECs and the like and turn their hand to getting everyone to install EXT3 drivers (for example, insert free file system of your choice) on their Windows machines. That way those of us who don't want to pay Microsoft could be free of this scourge forever.

Call me selfish -- but I do not want to be forced to pay Microsoft or do without a phone, camera, USB stick, Media player or any other device which stores files.

Heck, Apple could even get in on this act and ban all versions of FAT from their devices, or do they use something else already? That would explain them forcing iTunes on anyone who wants to use one of their devices (yes, I know there are workarounds.).

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