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Why Mobile Patents are Such a Mess

Apr 29, 2010, 15:33 (2 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by Mike Elgan)

"Microsoft announced this week that it has inked a deal with Taiwan-based High-Tech Computing (HTC). Under the agreement, HTC will pay royalties to Microsoft for phones that run Google's Android platform.

"Wait, what?

"Microsoft claims that the Linux operating system infringes 235 Microsoft patents, and Android, which is Linux-based, violates Microsoft patents, too. Microsoft has convinced HTC to pay royalties for the alleged Microsoft technology in Google's operating system.

"Why would HTC do that?

"Well, Apple is suing HTC for violating 20 Apple patents covering a wide range of technologies. One theory is that with both Microsoft and Apple claiming patent infringement, HTC has to pick sides. It chose Microsoft because the company also makes a wide variety of devices that run Microsoft operating systems. Because it has an extensive relationship with Microsoft, and none with Apple, choosing to work with Microsoft solves its Apple problem. In court, apparently HTC will be able to say that it's already licensing the technology Apple claims as its own, but from Microsoft. That would imply that Apple's beef is really with Microsoft, not with HTC. Case closed!"

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