By Harry McCracken | Tuesday, April 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm
Finally, news about smartphones and patents that doesn’t involve large companies suing each other: Microsoft has announced that it’s signed a patent licensing agreement with HTC covering the latter company’s Android smartphones. HTC gets to build Android phones without fear of patent trouble with Microsoft; Microsoft gets to collect a royalty on every Android handset HTC sells. Which is quite an accomplishment given that the company behind Android–Google–doesn’t charge handset manufacturers royalties.
Microsoft would presumably rather be collecting royalties on Windows phones–before it went gaga for Android, HTC was best known as the dominant maker of Windows Mobile devices–but a peaceful relationship between the two companies benefits both parties. (If HTC isn’t among the first companies to jump on the Windows Phone 7 bandwagon, it’ll be very surprising.)
The Microsoft press release doesn’t say anything in specific about the patents involved, but Microsoft has plenty of them covering phone-related technology.
If HTC requires a license to make Android phones without violating Microsoft’s intellectual property, what does that mean for Motorola, Samsung, LG, and all the other companies that make Android handsets? Stay tuned for news of further deals, I guess. Or lawsuits.Either way, it’s also hard to interpret the arrangement with HTC as anything other than an oblique shot across Google’s bow. (Here’s a Cnet story by Ina Fried on all this with a sound bite from Microsoft’s deputy general counsel that makes the shot slightly less oblique.)
Then again, it’s also hard to imagine that it would be in Microsoft’s best interest to sue large phone companies who are logical licensees for Windows Phone 7. Unlike Apple–which is in court with both HTC and Nokia–Microsoft’s business model requires decent relationships with the rest of the industry.