Microsoft's war chest of patents against Android revealed

Microsoft has been pursuing Android vendors for years and has signed several contracts with the largest players. Microsoft says that it is simply protecting its intellectual property - but if you are an Android vendor, you might think of it as extortion.

Microsoft has remained tight-lipped about the patents that it has been using when pursuing Android vendors but thanks to China, we now have a better look at the IP.

Up until now, Microsoft would contact an Android OEM, show them their massive lists of patents and then they would start paying royalties, as noted by the number of companies who have already signed such agreements. But what exactly were the patents that Microsoft dropped onto those conference room tables with a smile, while the Android OEM would scramble to sign an agreement?

China’s Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) posted up the list of patents (and applications) which totals 310. The patents that Microsoft is using to go after these vendors has been published, and you can download them here. Essentially, Microsoft is not looking to use one or two patents to make its case but has a massive list of items that infringe on its IP, with which it has been able to extract royalties from vendors.

From patent 5579517, which is titled 'Common Name Space for Long and Short Filenames', to patent 0035758 which covers plug and play device redirection for remote systems, the list covers a wide variety of scenarios, which is why many vendors have little recourse to fight Microsoft.

Microsoft is estimated to make $1-2 billion a year from these royalties, so it’s not a trivial sum of money for the corporation and justifies why they are pursuing these vendors.

Google tried to protect its Android OEMs by acquiring Motorola Mobility for their patents, but that attempt did nothing to inhibit Microsoft’s pursuit of Google’s business partners.

Source: China’s Ministry of Commerce via Ars Technica

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24 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

Gotta love how vague some of these are. Seems these days they're doing their utmost to be like Apple in every conceivable way. Which is bad because they suck pretty hard at it.

A lot of people in the 90's lost respect for Microsoft because of these heavy handed practices to beat out competition rather than letting your products speak for themselves. A lot of people in IT, and I suppose just people in general, still hold a grudge for Microsoft for their monopolization of personal computing in the 90's and this is going to do nothing to help Microsofts image.

I am still bitter against Microsoft and this crap just ensures that I will continue to recommend their competitors to my non tech friends and personally continue to ignore their products.

Having an R&D department, who's ideas actually go into products produced by the company, that patents their ideas, is "heavy handed"?

Not seeing where the grudge is coming from. I'd patent anything and everything I could related to a product I was selling. Seems like business as usual, for any company.

Mate, your views do not represent those of "a lot of people". However, considering your avatar, it's quite obvious there's a hint of bias in your distorted views.

I find it hilarious that you complain of "heavy handed" practices and recommend competitors as if they are corporate angels. This is business, this is how things work. If you want to complain about heavy handedness, you better complain about Apple, Google, Oracle, etc. as well.

Enron said
, If you want to complain about heavy handedness, you better complain about Apple, Google, Oracle, etc. as well.

I do, only less because they also have products that people actually want to use, not just use because they feel there is no other alternative

Shadowzz said,
Haha, all I heard from the anti-Microsoft squads that Microsoft is bullying around with its FAT patent. While its 300+ patents.

most are related with FAT.

Brony said,
most are related with FAT.

Flipping thru the document linked in the article, not really... there's only a couple the seem to deal with the file system, most of it is "cellphone stuff." Not that I'm defending it mind you, the system does need reform, MS is just playing it better than most. (And everybody does.)

I imagine at the time many of these didn't seem so obvious but now we think they are ridiculous.

Hopefully there is some fair patent reform but Google shouldn't be allowed to use others tech so freely and crush them with their business model then hold their hands up or pass the buck to manufacturers.

Patent act needs serious reform. Who gave these companies patent for using styles of name and other ridiculous claims.

majortom1981 said,
You have to keep in mind its more technical then what the patent name specifies. The patent covers HOW its done.

That is how it "should" be, but too many times it's vague and generic. I totally agree that if someone copies your method, then you should be able to protect it, but there are many ways to accomplish something in some cases, and in others, that is the ONLY way to do it.

Take "swipe to unlock". How many ways can you swipe? Android's doesn't look at all like Apples, but that was in the trial. Maybe the original Touchwiz or Android looked similar, but not that I've seen. That's just one example. There are many others that I've seen that are SIMILAR, but not copies and are programmatically different.

Auditor said,
Patent act needs serious reform. Who gave these companies patent for using styles of name and other ridiculous claims.

Have you read the whole thing? I haven't (yet), but based on the two examples given above, none of this sounds like the "rounded rectangles" or "slide to unlock" bullcrap coming from You-Know-Who.

majortom1981 said,
You have to keep in mind its more technical then what the patent name specifies. The patent covers HOW its done.

If it is about software the no, Patent does not covert how it is done but how they designed it. Copyright covers how it is done (i.e. code).

Does Google do anything to protect the OEM's who use Android?

Those OEM's who make Windows phone, are backed by MS patents... and backed by MS lawyers

Yes, when it relates to the Core OS Google has been known to back the OEMs. However, if it is related to all the violations Samsung is accused of with stealing looks/feels of a device...then that is on the OEM.

Showan said,
Does Google do anything to protect the OEM's who use Android?

No.
Showan said,
Those OEM's who make Windows phone, are backed by MS patents... and backed by MS lawyers

Those OEMs who pay the patent license fees are backed by ms patents from litigation from other third parties.
THAT is the point of these deals.

Many of those patents have either recently expired, or will be expiring in the next few years. Many of these, like the long file name patent, date from the early 90's. In the U.S., patents filed before 1995 only last 17 years. Post-1995 they are 20 years. So the clock is ticking. I read through some of these and it's like looking in a time capsule. Many relate to dealing with "hyper-media browser" content on a small screen device. The illustrations show Windows CE circa 1996. Many of these patents seem silly and obvious today but were I suppose revolutionary at the time. :)

Steven P. said,
Yeah I have read that Microsoft makes quite a bit of money per Android device.

They used it to offset the losses from the entertainment and search division (Xbox/Bing) losses.