Microsoft has signed a patent license agreement with Taiwan’s Foxconn, a major electronics manufacturer. The patents licensed relate to technology used in Android and Chrome software. Foxconn manufactures devices that run the Android and Chrome operating systems, including smartphones, tablets and televisions. Foxconn is best known as the manufacturer of Apple’s iPhones and iPad products.
Foxconn is the latest contract manufacturer to sign up for Microsoft’s Android and Chrome patent license program. Despite the fact that Google developed the two operating systems, according to Microsoft, both Android and Chrome use its patented technologies. Microsoft has sued Android vendors for patent infringement.
This agreement and others like it allow manufacturers that use the Android operating system to avoid patent infringement litigation. Taiwanese electronics manufacturers Compal and Wistron, and handset and tablet makers Samsung, HTC and Acer have all made similar deals. Microsoft has signed more than 1,100 patent licensing agreements since 2003 for access to the company’s technologies.
What Patents are Licensed?
Microsoft generally does not reveal the terms of patent license agreements, including the patents that are licensed. However, legal documents filed in ongoing cases against Motorola and Barnes & Noble assert a number of patents.
Here is a partial list of patents that have been asserted by Microsoft in patent infringement litigation:
Patents Nos. 5,579,517 and 5,758,352 (1996): These patents cover implementation of both long and short file names in the same file system. “An operating system provides a common name space for both long file names and short file names.”
Patent No. 6,621,746 (2003): relates to a monitoring system that determines when to erase data from flash memory devices. As stated in the patent: “Monitoring entropic conditions of a flash memory device as an indicator for invoking erasure operations.”
Patent No. 6,909,910 (2005): covers managing changes to contact database. “[A] system and method for updating a contact and adding a new contact from a call log in a communications device.”
Patent No. 7,644,376 (2010): “[A] method and system a unified mechanism for storing device, application, and service state, as well as a rich notification brokerage architecture.” The patent covers APIs that lets mobile apps learn about changes in the device.
Patent No. 5,664,133 (1997): “A method and system are described for a computer system for retrieving and presenting a set of commands in the form of a pop up context menu for selected objects.”
Patent No. 6,578,054 (2003): A “[m]ethod and system for supporting off-line mode of operation and synchronization using resource state information.” This covers online and offline transmission of data through methods that eliminate data transmissions. This also covers multiple copies of data to be synchronized using incremental changes.
Patent No. 6,370,566 (2002): “Generating meeting requests and group scheduling from mobile device.”
Patent No. 5,778,372 (1998): “Remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images.” “[A] browser remotely retrieves electronic documents from a remote computer network for viewing by a user.”
Patent No. 6,339,780 (2002): “Loading status in hypermedia browser having limited available display area.” Because a portable computer has limited displaying area, an internet or hypermedia browser executes a computer program to load and display content in the limited viewing area.
Patent No. 5,889,522 (1999): “System provided child window controls.”
Patent No. 6,891,551 (2005): “Selection handles in editing electronic documents.” This is a system for highlighting and selecting data. A selected area will identify “an initial selection of data, and one or more selection handles appear on the selection area to allow dynamic resizing of the selection area.”
Patent No. 6,957,233 (2005): “Method and apparatus for capturing and rendering annotations for non-modifiable electronic content.” This lets users select objects on pages that cannot be edited.
Less Litigation and Higher Prices
Android currently ranks as the number one operating systems for smartphone subscribers with 52% of market share. Microsoft’s mobile operating system has a very small market share of 3.1%.
With more manufacturers entering into licenses with Microsoft, we are likely to see less patent infringement litigation over Android technology. With more royalties being paid to Microsoft, manufacturers will generally increase the price of their devices and, of course, Microsoft will receive more patent license royalty income.