Microsoft to Android OEMs: 'Show me the money'

Redmond carefully considers OIN approach

Microsoft's moves

OIN’s founders are IBM, Novell, Philips, Red Hat and Sony, but today’s membership has expanded massively to include Google and Canonical, among others. Telecoms giant Vodafone Group announced on Monday that it is the latest to sign up.

Microsoft has been active on the Linux and open-source patents front. Microsoft was part of a consortium in 2011 with Apple, Oracle, and EMC that bought 882 patents owned by Novell, sold as part of that firm’s Attachmate acquisition.

In 2007, Microsoft claimed to have found 235 cases where Linux and open source software infringed its patents.

The software giant has been on a campaign, claiming violations of its patents in Linux and open source, particularly recently on Android. It’s been tying up software and device makers in licensing agreements, with firms paying Microsoft royalties rather than fighting a costly legal battle.

The opening shot was against TomTom in 2009, but the satnav firm promptly joined OIN and Microsoft subsequently said it would settle out of court.

Others have been less fortunate, and a string of device and software makers – including Acer and Samsung – have put their names to agreements paying Microsoft royalties, following claims that their use of patents in Linux were violations. A growing number have been makers of Android and Chrome devices.

The executive leading this campaign was Gutierrez, who justified deals by saying they “ensured respect for its world-class intellectual property portfolio”.

Much has been made of the “new” Microsoft under chief executive Satya Nadella and his willingness to work with competing technologies and companies. He has sanctioned Office on Android and iOS, but for Microsoft's legal team this is not a new era – it remains business as usual.

Bergelt said Microsoft as an OIN licensee would have “significant impact" for those concerned about their freedom of action and who operate in open source.

“We’d welcome it because it’s another major company that would be involved with a very large patent portfolio. The patents they have relative to the Linux portfolio would be made neutral,” he said.

Microsoft is thought to be charging between $5 and $15 per Android device, with one Wall St watcher claiming Microsoft is making $2bn a year from Android patent royalties.

OIN is home to some of the industry’s biggest holders of patents – IBM is the industry’s biggest, while Microsoft is the industry’s number five.

Bergelt pointed out other OIN members hold “significant patent portfolios” but “can manage that complexity” by being able to also charge at the same time. ®

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