Microsoft steps out from behind the proxies and files its own patent lawsuit against Android, suing Barnes and Noble because it sells Nooks, which run on Android. GeekWire has the patents listed, if you are free to look at them, and the complaint [PDF]. (I have a
local copy also, so we don't melt anyone's servers.)
Why not sue Google? Who knows? Well, this *is* Microsoft. It's jungle ethics. Don't go after the strongest in the field. Besides, they seem to be trying to make a point: what they seem to want is for folks to quit using Android in their products by scaring them with litigation. You could be next, is the message, so pay up. Microsoft says "we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers." Just like SCO. SCOsource II, you might say.
They want to make Linux cost, so they can compete. Just like SCO. So line up and bow down to Microsoft, y'all. Hardy har. Time for prior art, methinks.
SCO failed utterly, and I suppose one might see this as Microsoft deciding if you want a job done right, you need to do it yourself. I see Rob Enderle, SCO's buddy, is already making hay for Microsoft, calling it the "hidden cost of Android" and I assume that is the point Microsoft would like you to get from this lawsuit, in case you can't figure it out for yourself. And I suspect the Florian Mueller FUD was getting the world primed for this event, to try to portray Android and Google as somehow disrespectful of "IP rights". Just like SCO.
Like I told you, this is SCO II. If you admired the first one, you will admire Microsoft. Why can't Microsoft just make some great products that people actually want to buy instead? All I know is that when I see patent and copyright litigation, I generally figure the plaintiff is on the downward curve and thinks this is all they have left to play. As Mary Jo Foley puts it, There's more than one way to compete with Android.
Here's the Microsoft statement:
Microsoft Corp. today filed legal actions in the International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington against Barnes & Noble, Inc. and its device manufacturers, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. and Inventec Corporation, for patent infringement by their Android-based e-reader and tablet devices that are marketed under the Barnes & Noble brand. Instead of developing a competing product, they want to just skim off the top from the work of others. How very SCO.
“The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft’s patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights. To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property & Licensing. “HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, has taken a license under this program. We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec. Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market,” he added.
The patents at issue cover a range of functionality embodied in Android devices that are essential to the user experience, including: natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need; surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books.
Update: Google has issued a statement now:
Google would not say whether it would offer support to the defendant, but it took issue with the case. That's a pretty clear hint.
"Sweeping software patent claims like Microsoft's threaten innovation," Google said in a statement. "While we are not a party to this lawsuit, we stand behind the Android platform and the partners who have helped us to develop it."