back to article Microsoft trousers yet more royalties from Android gear

Microsoft has inked a deal with Compal Electronics, which pumps out gadgets that run Android and Chrome OS, for an undisclosed sum. Redmond said the agreement covered Compal's tablets, mobile phones, e-readers and other devices that run the Linux-based operating systems designed by Google. Under the deal, Microsoft will receive …

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And that's how you enforce your patents

No court dates, no PR, just tell them they're infringing and quietly come to an agreement about royalties. I guess there's a possibility that Microsoft's patents wouldn't stand up in court and that Compal et al have merely decided that this is the most efficient way of dealing with the dispute but efficiency shouldn't be undervalued.

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Fat lot of choice they had

Pay up or go bankrupt fighting our lawyers...

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@ratfox (partly)

Assuming Microsoft's patents are valid then the choice was: go bankrupt because of your intellectual property infringement or pay royalties.

Assuming Microsoft's patents are invalid or irrelevant but Microsoft would have pursued them in court anyway then the choice was: go bankrupt because of Microsoft's belief in its patents or pay royalties.

There's a third possibility, which seems to be what many people are assuming, that Microsoft's patents don't apply for whatever reason and that Microsoft knows it, so is using the out-of-court approach to avoid scrutiny. If that were true it would seem to be odd that companies like Samsung have signed up — they've got a smart legal department and a lot of money.

So then presumably the general negative mood is a reflection of the general feeling towards software patents? That's understandable but patents in general serve the useful purpose of rewarding invention, allowing companies to run research and design departments and benefitting society as a whole. I'm probably not the only person here who can reel off a list of 20 or 30 software patents that have been profitable but newsworthy partly because they're wholly obvious and/or uninventive, but we've no idea what patents Microsoft are asserting.

In this case I prefer to give Microsoft the benefit of the doubt because they've generally not abused patent law in the past, because HTC, Samsung and others have all seen the patents and decided to pay and because assuming innocence is both an enshrined part of our legal system and just plain a healthier way to live a life.

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Anonymous Coward

@ThomH

Finally someone that is talking sense!

its also worth noting that nobody here knows anything.

forinstance, we are assuming that these companies are paying out for every device as per the apparent agreement, but perhaps its worth considering that maybe just maybe, its a little deeper than that

Lets take HTC and Samsung as they are big players. If there was any reason for them not to pay out then they wouldnt, that much is clear. Whats more likely is that the agreement benifits all parties which is why they are happy to do it.

HTC and its shareholders sure as hell wouldnt take the margin hit on its devices, stocks would have bombed, so perhaps its likely that there is a cross patent agreement, ill show you mine if you show me yours, it will cost the same and everyone is happy, NET happiness :) ! This isnt restricted to phones, agreements could go all over the place

Thats a possibility, but who knows, no one here does and its wrong to sit here slating MS or anyone else for that matter for trying to pin down others with patents when we havent got a scooby about any of it.

What matters is that you get the best device possible for as little as possible and the chances of that being successful are much higher if all the companies get on with each other, every company may have a patent or two that someone else may like to use, and by getting along makes that all the more likely

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Rewarding invention

If patents really rewarded invention, that would be good. However, in the current system, when many people independently come up with an idea, only one person gets rewarded by the patent system. All the others get sued or have to pay licenses, and lose all the benefit of their work, even if they did come up with the idea themselves.

This discourages invention, as it is practically impossible to create anything without infringing some patent; to the point that even when an outfit like Google deliberately attempts to create a royalty-free codec, they seem unable to do so.

In a proper system, when people independently come up with an idea, the benefits would be shared between them. Many people having the same idea means the idea is less original, and so should be less rewarded.

Another problem is that fighting a lawsuit is so expensive that even big players like HTC and Samsung have an advantage in licensing a bogus patent rather than fighting it. Never mind small players like Compal Electronics...

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Anonymous Coward

"It's been nearly five years since Microsoft complained that open-source software violated exactly 235 entries in the company's vast patent portfolio."

So Microsoft successfully got 235 patents applied against "open-source software", why when Oracle asserted 132 patent claims against Google [Android], they were told that's too many, and told to reduce it to just 3? (Yes, I know Oracle subsequently got an increase to 15 approved)

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Headmaster

@AC (10:48 GMT)

Wrote :-

>> So Microsoft successfully got 235 patents applied against "open-source software"

No, that's not what happened.

MS have loads of patents. About 5 years ago they claimed that Linux infringed 235 of them. However, they have never revealed what these patents are - because they would rather just reach royalty agreements behind closed doors (so as not to identify the patents in question to the outside world).

If these 235 patents were ever identified there is no doubt that many of them would be open to dispute and would not stand up in court. This is because the US Pat Office rubber stamps anything submitted to them without looking into it - there is no limit to the fantasies you can patent provided you pay the fee.

In the Oracle vs Google case the patents were not being nullified, they were just ruled as no basis for a claim in that case.

So MS's 235 patents have never been "applied" against open source successfully in the sense of being legally recognised. The Open Source world wishes MS would just try it, in court, so these issues could be resolved visibly and properly. But MS would be shot down in flames if they did, so they don't.

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Linux

Because Microsoft didn't go to court, they just extracted a (probably very low) ransom to avoid having to do that.

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Reply to post: @AC (10:48 GMT)

With secure boot on the horizon and the fact that M$ could start going after the Linux distros, the future of open source is questionable. The war needs to be fought now or you will be living in a world totally controlled by M$

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WTF?

Protection Racket

Isn't this a protection racket? Pay up sonny and you won't come to any harm.

Doesn't make me look on Microsoft kindly to know the Android fondleslab I bought last week had a few dollars go to them. If their tablet OS was good enough to begin with I wouldn't have bought an Android device.

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"Nice OS you are using, too bad if it would get hit by a lawsuit"

"Isn't this a protection racket? Pay up sonny and you won't come to any harm."

Precisely. I really hope Google hires some fine legal minds to figure out how to hit back. It is very likely that if an actual lawsuit forced Microsoft to disclose precisely which patents it alleges are being infringed by Android, most if not all of them would soon wither under scrutiny.

There ought to be a law agains this kind of extortion - wait, it is *based* on the law. Bugger.

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Good question

The answer is of course that Microsoft would end up proving they are the victim and extracting even more money from anyone that tried this. I still remember the lawsuit that had Microsoft paying the company that created software that doubled disk capacity (actually it was usually about a 30-40% increase) when they blatantly stole it and included it with MS-DOS 5. Microsoft were going to license the product, but the company involved backed out and then sued MS when they used it anyway. Microsoft then went back to court and won 10 times the amount from the same company for breaking the contract, which I believe ended up with Microsoft being allowed to include the software with the OS for free and the said company going bankrupt.

I have to admit that this anecdote comes largely from memory (which given the pharmaceutical abuse I've given my brain may not be exactly 100%) and there is a small pinch of hearsay added from old computer magazine articles. But what I do know is large corporates from that era (early 90s) got up to this kind of mischief on a regular basis, and it wouldn't surprise me if the patents many of today's corporates own come from the work of companies that were forced out of business back then.

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@dropper

the pharmaceuticals have indeed not been kind. The case you are thinking of was Stac vs Microsoft

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stac_Electronics

Stac won the patent suit, and ended up receiving around $100million from MS. They did end up going out of business but not because MS sued them, it was because without the income from their disk compression product they didn't really have a business.

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FAIL

I happily buy applications from Android Market to support independent developers, but I pirate all the Microsoft software I use now (as well as share such copies between friends) to claim back this tax on my Android handset. Go to hell, Microsoft!

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naughty

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Devil

Eh?

So your response to Microsoft protecting their intellectual property is to steal their intellectual property? Like, eh?

You can't have a go at someone for "stealing" and then steal from them. That just defeats all your own arguments and makes you look like a two-faced double-standarded prick.

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Anonymous Coward

All the sincerity of a vegetarian...

Who claims to hate animal cruelty... but then gorges themselves with stolen meat.

Nom nom nom. At least you're not making those evil farmers rich, right, that's what counts?

And conveniently you get to both have your meat, and pretend on the interwebs that you're taking a heroic stand - without actually depriving yourself of anything!

Sheer brilliance! And outstanding commitment to the cause!

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Facepalm

I'm pretty angry with the local newsagents. I might go in there, rob all his stock and hand it out to my mates. Take that evil capitalist pig.

You sir, are still a common thief. No matter how you justify it.

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Facepalm

Oh dear, Fog Alert. You forgot to click on "post anonymously".

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true

but one way to do it I suppose.

If Microsoft's patents are so flimsy then why have many companies settled for Royalties, there must be something that they know will stand up in court and are wanting to avoid.

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Anonymous Coward

Well I regret having to resort to this particular action. When I learned that the particular HTC handset I bought was subject to the Microsoft tax, I initially wrote a letter to Microsoft requesting a rebate of $5 which is apparently the amount HTC pay MS per handset, but had no response. So this was kind of the last option as I was already a paid user of some previous versions of MS software and tied to them somewhat. I assure you I'm exploring all the options to get away from MS dependence as fast as possible.

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All the sincerity of a mickeysoft shill....

Who claims to hate intellectual property infringements... but then gorges themselves with stolen intellectual property.

There AC @12:46, fixed it for you

Mickeysoft have stolen IP from everybody, from CPM[1], google search results[2], OS X[3], i4i's XML spec[4],and a heap of other crap[5], FFS even IE was ripped off from the Spyglass browser.

Mickeysoft are like mad dogs, once they've pissed on something, its theirs....

[1]http://www.digitalresearch.biz/CPM.HTM

[2] http://downloadsquad.switched.com/2011/02/01/bing-caught-copying-search-results-from-google/

[3]http://www.infoworld.com/d/windows/apple-versus-microsoft-top-20-stolen-ideas-os-wars-046

[4] http://www.techspot.com/news/35793-microsoft-permanently-barred-from-selling-word.html

[5]http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_litigation

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Pirate

Picking off the small players

If Android does infringe on Microsoft's IP, why isn't Google the one being threatened? Is it because they would call Microsoft's bluff?

The sooner these "infringed" patents are out in the open, the better. If there is infringement, it can be coded around. If there isn't, Microsoft should be prosecuted for extortion.

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Because...

Google don't make money from selling Android.

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It makes me think that there's a reason Google offer no protection to its OEMs over patent infringement lawsuits on Android

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Google don't make money from selling Android, Microsoft do.

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@Red Bren RE: "Picking off the small players"

I respectfully point out that Samsung recently settled with MS - hardly a small player. I do not know what MS have got in those patents and I do not for one moment seek to defend predatory behaviour. I am just pointing out that it is not only the "little boys" who are paying up. Why that might be I have no idea.

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I'm guessing that it may be because as soon as you make a device and tailor the OS to your product rather than use a default out of the box version the infringement becomes your problem. Hence Casio getting hit up etc. I have a feeling that if you were using an unaltered Google version of Android then you can pass the buck in most countries though possibly not the US.

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234 silences

I am still waiting to hear what these supposed patents are. The only one that I have heard about is to do with FAT file systems .... but what about the rest ?

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It is blindingly obvious stuff that should never have been able to be patented, like putting up a "Loading" message while a web page is loading ("Loading status in a hypermedia browser with a limited display area"). Google the Barnes and Noble vs Microsoft case for other representative patents.

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Unfortunately the ‘merkin patent office will allow you to take out a patent on all sorts of ridiculous crap, such as

No. 4022227 - Method of Concealing Partial Baldness AKA the comb-over

No 5443036 - Method of exercising a cat (by getting it to follow a spot generated by a laser pointer)

No 4170357 - 12-gauge golf club

No 4320756 - The toilet snorkel

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What about Apple?

Isn't it doing the same thing in a slightly different way? Discuss.

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Not really

Assuming we take Jobs' attributed desires at face value and as company policy then Apple's plan is actually quite different from Microsoft's — Apple wants to kill Android, Microsoft wants to profit from it.

Ballmer has said he intends to kill Android but that he'll do it because Android handsets are too technical and Windows Phone 7 is therefore more attractive to consumers. Agree with that or don't, it's a very different way of seeking to kill the competition.

Of course, I've not read the Jobs biography yet and Ballmer's statements aren't always completely tied to reality...

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Missing statements

If these companies are actually paying Microsoft real money, is there any evidence that they are not receiving more in return for allowing Microsoft to publish these press releases?

Do these patents cover the device no matter what OS it runs, or are they apply only when Android is installed.

Unless these deals are published openly, I will assume it is just Microsoft paying hush money so their investors do not find out that all these patents are a load of rubbish.

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Narked now....

I do wish Google et al would get off the fence and make MS either put up or shut up. Clearly MS are going for the people who can't afford to take them on so this is never reaching the courts and the next small fish down the line comes to the hook.

If only it was a requirement to lodge real details when making these claims, I can't believe that any other area of law is quite so slack, you are basically allowed to say 'I own some of the design you are using' and are not required to prove it unless it actually comes to court. Why is there no arbitration process where the world can see who is bluffing who?

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This wasn't a lawsuit. This was two companies agreeing a licencing deal

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WTF?

Erm...

Compal had revenues of $13 billion last year.

That's a curious definition of a 'small fish'. To stretch the metaphore, I get that MS, Apple, Google, Oracle are the blue whales [pedants: I know it's a mammal] in this aquatic world, but a $13bn company is a long, long way from a sprat.

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There's an interesting diagram

Showign who is licenced and who is being sued here: http://wmpoweruser.com/now-more-than-half-of-android-devices-sold-under-license-from-microsoft

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Patent exchanges and deals go on all the time between these companies. Are Microsoft going to release the *full* details of the deals that they've made or just give out propaganda statements detailing cherry picked parts?

What's the phrase? Being "economical with the truth".

In any case, so many of these patents are utter garbage handed out by the US patent office. They harm innovation and are simply used as tools to try to maintain or create harmful monopolies.

Software should not be patented.

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Failure to Mark

So far as I can understand, (and I'm not even a patent expert on this side of the puddle), Nobody is on notice of infringement until they have been told which patents they infringe. Until they have been given notice, damages do not start to accrue.

QED, Microsoft is owed nothing until they list those 235 patents.

Of course, first you have to get the courts to believe that they should interpret the meaning of the law according to its plain wording.

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Absolutely correct. The bit most people appear to be missing is that they are under no obligation whatsoever to disclose any of 'em to *you* or, for that matter, me.

Part of the licensing arrangement, for those who actually need to see them, is an NDA.

Given the willingness of the Big Boys who have seen 'em to cough up, you have to say that whichever ones are at the heart of the Android licensing are sound to the extent of not being even worth *trying* to contest.

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Hmm....NDA

Now wouldn't it be interesting, not that I would IN ANY WAY condone such behaviour, if some alert hacker should *accidentally* obtain a copy of one of these NDAs and broadcast it to the world.......

Of course that may need a few extra documents to include the patent info and suchlike since of course the NDA isn't binding until you sign it so there wouldn't be anything in there to.......

Where's Wikileaks when you need them....?

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Anonymous Coward

High time ...

That MS were legally compelled to a) reveal exactly what these supposed 235 infringements are, and b) reveal the content of their agreements with those they are strong-arming to sign.

Because I'm sure neither are legal or enforceable.

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why? just to satisfy your anti MS rant?

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Anonymous Coward

No. Just to satisfy the curiosity of millions and indulge my sense of fair play.

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JDX
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I think they must be valid claims

Small companies may well settle because they can't afford to fight MS. But some of the companies who agreed to settle are big $multi-billion giants who certainly could - look at Samsung fighting Apple. This makes me think there is something valid (based on the law, not necessarily common sense) about these patent claims.

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Anonymous Coward

If there were anything genuinely valid

Then MS would have been first to tell us. In great detail. Make no mistake.

The fact that they aren't is proof that if (and surely when) it comes to a legal challenge they know they will be laughed out of court. Either that or they will end up paying billions to prove their claims and it will drag on for years -- and if they can't they will be finished.

Personally, I say bring it on -- because this as it stands is an extortion racket.

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Devil

LAZY LAZY LAZY

All companies are lazy today.

Interfaces used to be customa nd now all are based off of linux.

No more OS inventors.

Sad.

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Not necessarily lazy - if the wheel you reinvent isn't a better one then what was the point?

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Certainly looks odd...

I wonder if the agreements aren't effectively being purchased at 'pennies on the dollar' for the sake of the theatre that results and that Ms can exploit i.e. the infringing parties don't take too close a look at the specifics of the putative patents because it's obvious from a glance that the agreement--the terms of which are expected never to see the light of day--is set out so as to pretty much guarantee a closing, while still looking like a plausible 'penalty'.

In the event that those deals are worth any kind of penny at all, and the infingers signed up to the program after a considered cost-benefit analysis (which wouldn't necessarily require close consideration of the patents themselves), I would hope the signing infringers had enough foresight to require inclusion in those agreements of a provision that--should the 235 ultimately fail to materialize, or be effectively rendered down in legal proceedings forced by a hard-headed/hard-nosed entity--the signers will be compensated for their financial pains by Ms.

The extension of the NDA--beyond the very basic I'll-show-you-mine-if-you-show-me-yours exchange--is a cancer.

Time to mandate time-limited NDAs (sunsets). And I hope that courts have the right (and the brass) to require revealing the terms of NDAs, in the same way that they're in a position to force individuals to hand over the keys to encrypted data.

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