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Microsoft Inks Deal with Motorola Solutions on Android Use

Microsoft announced an Android intellectual property licensing deal today with Motorola Solutions Inc.

The deal covers Motorola Solutions' use of the Android and Google Chrome OS operating systems. Terms weren't described, including if there were any royalty payments made, but Microsoft's patents were described as being licensed. Motorola Solutions produces various wireless products and solutions for government sector and business markets. It's not the same company as Motorola Mobility, which was bought by Google about two years ago.

Google fostered the development of the Linux-based Android mobile operating system and provides it royalty free to hardware manufacturers. However, Android doesn't come with legal indemnity protections for the companies that use it. Consequently, extracting intellectual property deals from hardware manufacturers using Android has been a favorite practice of Microsoft's legal department in recent years.

Microsoft has claimed to have struck such licensing deals with about 70 percent of hardware makers using Linux. Specifically with regard to Android, Microsoft claims to have signed deals with "numerous companies, including Samsung, ZTE, LG, HTC, Acer and Barnes & Noble," per the announcement.

Still, Microsoft has met sporadic resistance to its claims. Microsoft has sued Barnes & Noble as well as Motorola, and has had numerous court clashes with Google's own Motorola Mobility. The disputes mostly concerned software intellectual property claims associated with user interface inventions.

Barnes & Noble's settlement with Microsoft about two years ago came after a failed appeal that had challenged Microsoft's legal tactics. Barnes & Noble had claimed that Microsoft's intellectual property claims were a misuse of the U.S. patent laws in the mobile platform competition. However, the judge in the case essentially ruled that Microsoft can use its patent holdings for "hard bargaining," even to the point of increasing costs for competitors.

It's thought that Microsoft may get almost $2 billion a year from its royalties associated with Android use, according to press accounts, which usually cite Nomura Financial Analyst Rick Sherlund as the source.

In recent years, Microsoft's Windows OS monopoly has been eroded by the proliferation of Android use. That trend is expected to continue in the near future, according to an estimate by Gartner Inc.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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