By Harry McCracken | Monday, March 21, 2011 at 2:57 pm
More news in the never-ending saga of technology companies suing each other over patents: Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble and its manfuacturing partners Foxconn and Inventec, saying that the bookseller’s Android-based Nook and Nookcolor e-readers violate Microsoft software patents dating back to the 1990s. The move isn’t a shocker given that Microsoft had already sued Motorola over Android phones and struck licensing agreements with HTC (for Android phones) and Amazon.com (for the not-based-on-Android Kindle e-reader).
The license fee that Microsoft says it expects makers of Android devices to pay it would make it the only company to collect a royalty on every Android-based gadget sold. (Google gives away the software.)
In a blog post announcing the suit, Microsoft Corporate VP Horacio Gutierrez says:
By bringing this case, we are protecting our investments on behalf of our customers, partners and shareholders – just as other companies do. Our firm view remains, however, that licensing is the best way forward for the industry, and we will continue to prefer the licensing path to litigation.
Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble on behalf of its customers? Gee thanks. But some customers of Microsoft (and other tech outfits, including Apple, Nokia, HTC, and others) would much rather that the companies spent less time in court squabbling over patents on rather obvious ideas and more time actually making innovative products. (Barnes & Noble, unlike Microsoft and its partners, has succeeded in designing and selling an e-reader that large numbers of people want.)
In Microsoft’s defense, it’s not a lawsuit-crazy company–it says it’s only filed seven “proactive” patent suits in its 36 years in business. But maybe that’s an argument against cases like these, not in favor of them: The company sure seems to have done well over the years without resorting to stuff like this.