Microsoft announced today that it’s signed a broad patent agreement with Samsung to cross-license the patent portfolios of both companies. The agreement covers Samsung’s use of the Android mobile platform, and also gives both companies greater patent coverage related to each other’s technologies.
Microsoft, which contends it has patents on technologies found in certain Android features, will receive royalties for Samsung’s mobile phones and tablets running Android under the term’s of the agreement announced today.
In recent months, Microsoft has gone after some companies that make phones and tablets running Android, the mobile-device software made by competitor Google. Microsoft says they infringe on Microsoft’s intellectual property and have either sued or persuaded them to pay Microsoft licensing fees.
Microsoft and Google have even engaged in public spats over the issue.
In July, reports citing Korean media said Microsoft wanted Samsung to pay the company $15 for each phone that uses Android. Microsoft did not disclose the terms of the agreement announced today, which also included an agreement that both companies cooperate in the development and marketing of Windows Phone.
The Samsung license agreement marks the seventh agreement Microsoft has signed in the past three months with hardware manufacturers that use Android, according to a blog post today from Microsoft attorneys Brad Smith and Horacio Gutierrez. The previous six were with Acer, General Dynamics Itronix, Onkyo, Velocity Micro, ViewSonic and Wistron.
“Together with the license agreement signed last year with HTC, today’s agreement with Samsung means that the top two Android handset manufacturers in the United States have now acquired licenses to Microsoft’s patent portfolio,” Smith and Gutierrez’ blog post said. “These two companies together accounted for more than half of all Android phones sold in the U.S. over the past year. That leaves Motorola Mobility, with which Microsoft is currently in litigation, as the only major Android smartphone manufacturer in the U.S. without a license.”
The attorney’s blog post also offers a dig at Google, saying: “We recognize that some businesses and commentators — Google chief among them — have complained about the potential impact of patents on Android and software innovation. To them, we say this: look at today’s announcement. If industry leaders such as Samsung and HTC can enter into these agreements, doesn’t this provide a clear path forward?”
Florian Mueller, an intellectual-property analyst writing for the blog Foss Patents, called today’s agreement “the most important Android-related intellectual property deal in its own right, and even more significant against the background of Google’s proposed acquisition of Motorola Mobility. If Samsung truly believed that Google’s acquisition of Motorola Mobility was going to be helpful to the Android ecosystem at large, it would have waited until that deal is closed before concluding the license agreement with Microsoft. But Samsung probably knows it can’t rely on Google. It decided to address Android’s intellectual property issues on its own.”
In August, Google announced a planned $12.5 billion purchase of Motorola, which holds some 17,000 patents on phone technology.