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Microsoft Pri0

Welcome to Microsoft Pri0: That's Microspeak for top priority, and that's the news and observations you'll find here from Seattle Times technology reporter Janet I. Tu.

February 21, 2013 at 4:13 PM

Microsoft signs Nikon to Android patent licensing deal, pushes for patent reforms

Add Nikon to the list of companies who’ve agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for using Android.

Microsoft says that certain technologies used in the Android platform, which Google offers for free, infringe on patents held by Microsoft. A number of companies that manufacture devices running on Android, including Samsung, HTC and LG, have signed patent agreements with Microsoft.

The agreement announced today covers certain Nikon cameras that run Android. Details of the agreement weren’t disclosed.

In other Microsoft-and-patents developments, the company today called for increased transparency in the current patent system and a loser-pays rule in patent litigation as a way of curbing what it calls frivolous lawsuit, as part of a reform of the U.S. patent system.

Microsoft pledged to make clear its own patent holdings and urged other companies to do the same. Microsoft said it would publish by April 1, on the Web, information that would allow anyone to determine which patents the company owns, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith said in a blog post. Smith had participated earlier today on a panel discussion in Washington, D.C., on software patents and the patent system sponsored by BSA | The Software Alliance and the National Association of Manufacturers.

“One of the main functions of patents is to provide notice both of the invention and who owns it.  Disclosure of the real party in interest for a particular patent reduces the likelihood of opportunistic behavior and gamesmanship, helping to facilitate licensing,” Smith said in his blog post.

Microsoft also called for a “loser pays” system in patent cases as a way of deterring frivolous lawsuits, particularly from “patent assertion entities” — firms that acquire patents but most often do not use those patents to manufacture products of their own.

The company also advocated for improved quality on patents by raising the bar on how patents are examined for approval by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

And it called on other companies to join its pledge, made last year, to not seek injunctions based on standards-essential patents, which involve technologies considered essential to industry standards. (Google, earlier this year as part of a settlement with the Federal Trade Commission, had agreed to not seek injunctions against companies willing to license its standards-essential patents.)

Microsoft has been on both sides of patent battles. It has pursued licensing deals or litigation with companies that it said infringed on its patents. But it’s also taken out licenses to other companies’ patents, or been sued for allegedly infringing on them. Currently, its most high profile patent battles involve those with Google and Google subsidiary Motorola. This spring, a federal judge in Seattle is expected to decide on a reasonable rate for certain standards-essential patents at the center of Microsoft and Motorola’s battle. That decision is expected to have wider ramifications for the tech industry.

Comments | More in Microsoft | Topics: android, google, microsoft

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