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Microsoft Android Cellphones Handhelds Patents Technology

Another Android Device Maker Signs Patent Agreement With Microsoft 203

Posted by Soulskill
from the better-safe-than-sued dept.
doperative writes with this quote from El Reg: "Microsoft has nailed a second Android device maker to a patent licensing agreement. The Redmond software giant announced on Monday that General Dynamics Itronix has signed a patent agreement that will provide 'broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio.' In other words, General Dynamics Itronix has agreed to licensing certain, unnamed Microsoft patents for use with Android-powered portables."
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Another Android Device Maker Signs Patent Agreement With Microsoft

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  • by bhcompy (1877290) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:26PM (#36606092)
    Does that make Google the Brotherhood of Nod? I thought they weren't evil????
  • by ciaran_o_riordan (662132) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:33PM (#36606150) Homepage

    I've added them to the list:

    http://en.swpat.org/wiki/Software_distributors_paying_Microsoft_patent_tax [swpat.org]

    The costs being passed on is bad enough, but it's also worrying to note that these deals include an implied admission by the signees that they need MS's permission for the distribution of their products.

    That means MS can cancel their business at any time, and it implies that no one else can develop for that platform without MS's permission.

    • by vivian (156520) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:57PM (#36606290)

      Does any other sector suffer as many patent lawsuits with supposed patent infringement as the software industry? I mean, I don't hear much about various
      manufacturer suing each other over mechanical design patents, for example.

      Dosn't the fact that there are so many cases like this indicate that the whole idea of software patents is very very broken? It's all but impossible to do a meaningful search for a patent that will help you solve a software problem, that could save you development time. Instead it is much more the ambush model - you go about your business developing something, oblivious to some obscurely written overly broad software patent that your software is supposedly infringing - then get ambushed by the patent holder.

      The patent has done absolutely nothing to shorten your development time or lower your costs to bring the product to market. Quite the opposite infact - if you want to write software that does not infringe on any other patent out there, the amount of research for existing software patents that your code might infringe on, would probably take more time than it does to actually write your software, even though you are writing it with no knowledge of the patents in question .

      We live in a democracy, and us developers are pretty much totally against software patents, as far as I can see. So why can't we fix this?

      • Does any other sector suffer as many patent lawsuits with supposed patent infringement as the software industry?

        A few of them: pharmaceutical, medical devices, electronics, etc.

        • I was an intern in the pharmaceutical industry and it gave me a perspective of how shady and deceitful of a business it is. However, it's one example of patents working as intended. Manufacturers can obtain patents on a drug, a novel delivery system, or a device. This doesn't impair other manufacturers from altering the molecule to produce a competing drug. That's why we have drug classes, and often the analogs differ from the progenitor by a single substitution. Consider the statins, a class of antihy
      • ...So why can't we fix this?

        Ahhh, grasshopper, when you can define what is broke (and for whom it is broken), only then will you know the answer.
      • Dosn't the fact that there are so many cases like this indicate that the whole idea of software patents is very very broken?

        Not necessarily; it can also mean any of the following:

        1. Most mechanical ideas have been all patented a long time ago, and those patents have expired.

        2. Patent office is better at spotting prior art or obviousness in mechanical patents compared to software patents.

        3. The requirement to pay patent fees for mechanical devices is not considered onerous, and most companies just fork over the cash without going to court.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        So why can't we fix this?

        Corruption and lobbyism.

        In Europe "we" the developers and citizens have been protesting against software patents for a long time. Again and again the issue has been delayed at best. Lobby organisations won't stop until they get their precious extortion patents. We as citizens cannot keep up with 24/7 paid and well-funded professionals that constantly influence politicians with illegitimate and often illegal means.

        Software patents are merely a symptom of a broken democracy.

        • In Europe you are so special. We are so cool that we will forget about our nations like Greece which is crumbling into nothing because they spent more then they make.

      • "We live in a democracy, and us developers are pretty much totally against software patents, as far as I can see. So why can't we fix this?"

        Your logic there is impecable, so you must question your premisses...

  • by unity100 (970058) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:38PM (#36606178) Homepage Journal
    What difference does this have from a robber baron waiting atop a bridge and asking tolls from passers ? no difference.

    baron may have a right to that bridge someone else has built, or, it may not even have the right to it, but it may be claiming it. the deal is, as long as you have less standing and resources than baron in the socio-economic ladder, you cant do anything about it, but pay. Only another baron equal or greater than his socioeconomic status can challenge him.

    ultimate end of capitalism, is feudalism. even if you have brief political freedom until it happens, it eventually happens - just like how it happened from roman republic to roman empire. mechanics are the same, end result is the same, just the names are different.
    • by _merlin (160982)

      What difference does this have from a robber baron waiting atop a bridge and asking tolls from passers ?

      Why can't it be a troll under the bridge? That would be so much more cool.

      • by mysidia (191772) *

        Why can't it be a troll under the bridge? That would be so much more cool.

        Because the troll under the bridge is the government revenue department / tax collector. The Baron is more forthcoming, the rules are simpler, even though they are just as arbitrary/made up to suit the Baron's needs; the real difference between trolls and Barons is who they want to pay, and what they do to you if you don't pay.

        Barons bring non-payers before the court and collect their pay in a "civilized way"; the taxes are cha

      • by kikito (971480)

        There is, but he's posting on Slashdot and not paying attention to the bridge at all.

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:00PM (#36606312)

      ultimate end of capitalism, is feudalism. even if you have brief political freedom until it happens, it eventually happens

      You do realise that patents and corporations have nothing to do with capitalism, yes? Given that they are government-granted protections, you could argue that they're antithetical to capitalism.

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        You do realise that patents and corporations have nothing to do with capitalism, yes? Given that they are government-granted protections, you could argue that they're antithetical to capitalism.

        You could argue that, but you would sound pretty stupid. For starters, how does having a government and laws make you anti-capitalist? You can't even have a stable monetary system without government-granted protection of the currency.

        A corporation is a legal structure that codifies ownership of property. The corporation owns assets and conducts business; individual shareholders own portions of the total value of that entity. That is what you'd describe as anti-capitalist behavior?

        Similarly, patents grant ow

        • by mysidia (191772) *

          You can't even have a stable monetary system without government-granted protection of the currency.

          You don't need a monetary system to have capitalism. Trade can be done through barter and hard currencies. The government (or a widely trusted party) can make trade more efficient.

          A problem with hard currencies, is the possibility of fraud, for example fake specie. Forged government notes are easier to detect, since a trusted entity installed effective anti-counterfeiting measures.

          You also don't need

          • You also don't need any government protecting "ownership" to have capitalism. There is a natural concept of ownership, even in the absence of governments -- when you build something, or perform work of the hand to create something, grow something, that thing is yours; when you have built and worked on a piece of land first, that is naturally yours.

            What you describe is personal property, which is a more narrow concept. Personal property is literally that which you directly possess - the shirt on your back, the land on which you stand, the house in which you live, the car which you drive. Private property is much broader - you can own something, e.g. a factory, without ever setting foot in it or even seeing it. Yet, by virtue of the society recognizing your property right to said factory, you can control it - meaning that you can restrict other people

        • by Belial6 (794905)
          Corporations are not capitalist nor are they socialist. They are Feudal.

          patents are not ownership. That is just a euphemism. Patents are government mandated monopolies. Closer to fascism than capitalism.

          The fact that you would even comment on socialism means you clearly don't understand the parents argument.
          • by PCM2 (4486)

            patents are not ownership. That is just a euphemism. Patents are government mandated monopolies. Closer to fascism than capitalism.

            So what do you call land ownership? Who says that someone else can't just come and sleep in your backyard? The government. You didn't make the land and you didn't discover it. It was here millions of years before you were ever born and it will probably be here millions of years after. So how can you "own" it?

            In fact, you can't effectively own anything without laws that say it's yours.

            The fact that you would even comment on socialism means you clearly don't understand the parents argument.

            The fact that you would talk about "fascism" and "feudalism" means you clearly have never read a history book. Go talk to som

          • All "property" is government mandated and protected, why should patents be singled out?

            Natural laws of ownership aren't going to help you when I come and take your car, is it? Whats the thing stopping me from taking your car? Government backed laws and the police force and courts to enforce those laws.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by whiteboy86 (1930018)
        Well then, I am awed by the Microsoft castle, it is very complete, with a Linux moat, a patent troll bridge, developer torture chambers, crooked exec tower and unfathomable scale of bug and security holes filled dungeons.
      • by mysidia (191772) * on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @09:34PM (#36606948)

        You do realise that patents and corporations have nothing to do with capitalism, yes?

        They have some things to do with the US implementation of capitalism. They increase the cost of certain resources that could otherwise be less expensive.

        They do have an effect of increasing the profitability of certain businesses.

        Also, "capitalists" lobby for these laws. Now it's also true that by nature, capitalism allows companies that arise in the system to lobby for laws that are actually anti-capitalist, for selfish reasons.
        Just because capitalism allowed a company to exist, does not necessarily mean it's in their best interest for the system to be pure capitalist; companies that form in a capitalist system will (by nature) try to get laws/regs that benefit them, which by nature, include laws that protect their hegemony and make it harder for a successful competitor to arise and take business.

      • That's Free Market Capitalism, which is not the only (or even the more common) version of capitalism.

        Capitalism, by itself, simply means that the means of production are privately owned and run for profit. It does not specify other roles of the government.

        • I said that you "could make an argument", not that it was an essential part of the definition.

          As for the argument: capitalism arose in a period where the means of production was owned by the state. Capitalism espoused ownership by the individual - it was a movement away from strong government control, and towards private control. That is why limited liability corporations and patent protection can be seen as anti-capitalistic: they represent the very thing capitalism was trying to get away from.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Capitalism is nothing more than finding a way to gain from a situation. The fact that it is seen as synonymous with free market is a shame. Even the most die hard socialist is going to capitalize on the system. It is the evil part of greed, the part that is willing to blackmail another person to gain advantage. To pass regulation to gain advantage. To position other groups against each other to gain advantage. All while not actually producing anything of value to trade in a free market that has open a

        • Capitalism has nothing to do with finding a way to gain from a situation. That might be called ingenuity, or entrepreneurial spirit, but it's not capitalism. Rather than repeat myself, I'll just provide a link to my response to a similar comment [slashdot.org]

      • Given that they are government-granted protections, you could argue that they're antithetical to capitalism.

        And if you did argue so you would be wrong.

        You do realize that capitalism is government granted, don't you? Ownership rights are a legal fiction granted to the people by the power of their government, and enforced by it.

        Without ownership rights, capitalism simply doesn't exist.

        • Ownership existed long before government did; it was called a club, and a belligerent attitude. Nowadays we just swap the club for a lawyer.

          If you want to argue that point, then all rights are a legal fiction, as absent a government, there is nobody to enforce any of them. That's because the concept of a "right" isn't a political one; they're a moral concept. If we say someone has a "right", then what we mean is that it's immoral to restrict them from exercising their right. The concept of "mine" and "yours

      • No they are antithetical to free market capitalism.

        You could argue that they are a return to mercantilism.

        • You could argue that they are a return to mercantilism.

          Which is what Adam Smith was writing against when he wrote The Wealth of Nations. Capitalism emerged from, and in reaction against, mercantilism. I'd say a return to mercantalism is contrary to capitalism almost by definition.

  • by 93 Escort Wagon (326346) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:57PM (#36606292)

    At some point these "unnamed patents" that are allegedly being infringed need to see the light of day.

    On the face of it, this situation is too similar to the SCO lawsuits for comfort - talk of unnamed, unspecified patents against which Android is infringing, and a lot of lawyers to inflict the death of 1000 cuts if the company dares trying to fight. I suspect the similarity in tactics is not a coincidence.

    Interesting that, AFAIK, they aren't going after Google - but then Microsoft knows Google has lots of lawyers as well.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by amiga3D (567632)

      It is likely Microsoft is more frightened of Google's patent portfolio. That's the only way to thrive in the software world, you must arm yourself with thousands and thousands of vague, broad and obvious patents and then waylay all the smaller, more vigorous and innovative companies that are trying to compete with you. If you can use the courts and your patent portfolio to stifle them you can continue to make money without having to adapt to new markets.

    • by Raenex (947668) on Wednesday June 29, 2011 @12:36AM (#36607816)

      At some point these "unnamed patents" that are allegedly being infringed need to see the light of day.

      It took a surprising amount of searching to find it, as most of the stories did not list the patents, but I found a couple of sites ([1] [ismashphone.com], [2] [patentlyapple.com]) that have them. Here's the list from [2]:

      • U.S. Patent No. 5,579,517 ("the '517 patent") entitled: "Common name space for long and short filenames." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates "to data processing systems and, more particularly, to a common name space for long and short filenames.
      • U.S. Patent No. 5,758,352 ("the '352 patent") entitled: "Common name space for long and short filenames."
      • U.S. Patent No. 6,621,746 ("the '746 patent") entitled: "Monitoring entropic conditions of a flash memory device as an indicator for invoking erasure operations." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates "to flash memory devices, and more particularly, monitoring when to perform an erase operation in a flash memory device."
      • U.S. Patent No. 6,826,762 ("the '762 patent") entitled: "Radio interface layer in a cell phone with a set of APIs having a hardware-independent proxy layer and a hardware-specific driver layer." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates "to application programming interfaces (APIs) and, even more particularly, relates to a Radio Interface Layer comprising a set of APIs." Only this patent within the group relates to the product known as the "Motorola Charm."
      • U.S. Patent No. 6,909,910 ("the '910 patent") entitled: "Method and system for managing changes to a contact database." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates "to mobile computing, and more particularly to updating a contact database within a mobile computing device."
      • U.S. Patent No. 7,644,376 ("the '376 patent") entitled: "Flexible architecture for notifying applications of state changes." Microsoft states in their patent that "Briefly described, the present invention is directed at unifying state and notification architecture across devices."
      • U.S. Patent No. 5,664,133 ("the '133 patent") entitled: "Context sensitive menu system/menu behavior." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates "to the field of user interfaces for computer systems, and more particularly to graphical user interfaces wherein a user selects from a collection of graphical representations displayed upon a video screen corresponding to actual computer resources."
      • U.S. Patent No. 6,578,054 ("the '054 patent") entitled: "Method and system for supporting off-line mode of operation and synchronization using resource state information." According to Microsoft, the patent generally relates to "to the support of on-line and off-line transmission and synchronization of data. More specifically, the present invention relates to systems and methods that eliminate redundant data transmission and allow multiple copies of data to be synchronized so that incremental changes made to one copy of the data can be identified, transferred, and incorporated into the other copy of the data, regardless of whether the incremental changes are made on-line or off-line."
      • U.S. Patent No. 6,370,566 ("the '566 patent") entitled: "Generating meeting requests and group scheduling from a mobile device." Microsoft's patent abstract describes the patent this way: The present invention includes a mobile device which provides the user with the ability to schedule a meeting request from the mobile device itself. The mobile device creates an object representative of the meeting request and assigns the object a global identification number which uniquely identifies the object to other devices which encounter the object. In addition, the mobile devic
      • Thank you! I hope someone mods you up for that.

      • I wonder why nearly nobody is fighting. I know one can't judge a patent by its title, but there is no chance I'm reading such beasts...

        "Common name space for long and short filenames."

        Looks like those patents on DOS naming convention MS is suing every flash user with. The problem here is that Android doesn't use the DOS naming convention.

        "Monitoring entropic conditions of a flash memory device as an indicator for invoking erasure operations."

        The hardware doesn't already do that? Can MS sue the flash manufacturers with that patent, and them go and sue the companies that use those same flash chips? Can it sue the end consumers too?

        "Radio interface layer in a cell phone with a set of APIs having a hardware-independent proxy layer and a hardware-specific driver layer."

        That is the funniest of all

  • by drb226 (1938360) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @07:59PM (#36606308)
    Has Microsoft taken legal action towards non-Android devices? BlackBerry or webOS (Palm), for instance? Do android devices really use special software components that *happen* to fall under MSFT patents which other mobile OSes *happen* to not use?
    • Re:Honest question (Score:4, Informative)

      by Trillan (597339) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:10PM (#36606384) Homepage Journal

      Since RIM and HP both have mobile patent portfolios of their own, I imagine there is some variety of cross-licensing at work (and possibly cash transfers, one way or the other). I think RIM and Microsoft are suing each other as well.

  • Well, if this extorsion business model works for MS, then maybe they'll get to the conclusion that they don't need nokia and WP7.
  • by QuietLagoon (813062) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:03PM (#36606354)
    ... back in the last years of the 1990's...

    Those who cannot compete, litigate.

    Microsoft has proven to be unable to compete in the marketspace of mobile devices. So Microsoft now threatens expensive lawsuits in their attempt to remain meaningful.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by interval1066 (668936)

      Microsoft has proven to be unable to compete in the marketspace of mobile devices.

      What? Shoe-horning a huge, complicated, monolithic, & proprietary OS into the blossoming, new, mobile space didn't work? Imagine that.

  • by atomicbutterfly (1979388) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:07PM (#36606368)

    There are some people (particularly on Neowin.net) who say there's nothing wrong with Microsoft pursuing these agreements to obtain money from each Android phone sold, because of the argument that if you create something and I want to use it, obviously you'd want to be paid for all that research and development costs.

    What's the best way to debunk what at first sounds like a completely logical statement? I know it sounds rather like an xkcd comic (particularly http://xkcd.com/386 [xkcd.com]), but still.

    • Re:Help me out here (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Trillan (597339) on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:20PM (#36606454) Homepage Journal

      There really isn't one. Microsoft spent money researching, created something, and patented it. Now, they are doing what they ethically must: using previous investments (R&D, patents) to maximize value for their shareholders.

      I haven't seen these patents, obviously. (I don't think we even know which they are.) I imagine some of them are broad, cover-everything patents. But some are probably fairly specific, given that Microsoft actually creates products in the same category and isn't (exclusively) a patent troll.

      The flaw is that the patents are allowed to exist; the "wrong" is that conditions that allow this to happen exist, not that it's happening. The system needs reform.

      • by Cyberax (705495)

        "There really isn't one. Microsoft spent money researching, created something, and patented it. "

        Then other people researched AND implemented it. And started selling it. Independently from Microsoft.

        Now, why should MS get even a penny from them?

        • by Trillan (597339)

          Because we (society; not you *OR* I) have decided that the first person to an idea has the right to patent it.

          For no other reason.

          If we (society) don't like it (as neither you nor I do), we need to change it.

          • by Cyberax (705495)

            Well, we do need to change it.

            • by Trillan (597339)

              Totally agree. Got any ideas to actually make it change? I don't. Politicians in Canada have misrepresented Canadians repeatedly on issues such as these, and voting that set out and a new set in has done precisely nothing. US politicians have done the same. (I assume you're in the US.)

    • by Zerth (26112)

      Because if I'm not using any of their work, why should I pay for it?

      If whatever patents MS is claiming are being infringed were valid, everyone would know exactly which ones because MS would be shouting from the rooftops the cool things they came up with that nobody had ever thought of before and all the developers would be saying "This was clearly the right thing to do once Microsoft made it obvious. We never would have thought of it ourselves, but how can we make our product without it now."

      The patents i

      • by lee1026 (876806)

        Considering how much software MS writes and how long they have been writing it, it is entirely possible that whatever they patiented have already made it into engineering canon.

    • by goruka (1721094)
      That argument sounds meaningful, until you start looking at the actual patents involved. Far far most of software patents are obvious solutions to problems, too broad, unrelated, stuff related to an obvious (only way) to implement a specification, or simply rehashing prior art.
      "research" sounds like wise people locked in a room where money is pumped and cool new revolutionary ideas are produced, but in reality it's just people realizing they did something just a *very sightly little bit different* than wh
      • The system was desinged in a time that thermodynamics was the only advanced science, and just a bunch of people worked at hight tech (all on the same kind of tech). It was not designed to cope with any aspect of advanced sciences or our current R&D methodology. Software is not the exception, mechanic engeneering (where patens somewhat work) is.

  • Public Record (Score:5, Interesting)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Tuesday June 28, 2011 @08:25PM (#36606488) Homepage Journal

    Patent licensing deals should be a matter of public record. Do whatever the hell you want with your trade secrets, but if you're using a government instrument (patents) then We the People, the owners of the government, need to see how you're using them, so we can understand if adjustments need to be made.

    • Patent ownership isn't even necessarily a matter of public record. You *can* file with the USPTO to put a patent assignment on the record, and most corporations obtaining patent rights from their employees (who are the named inventors in the US - pretty much all foreign countries allow the corporations to apply for the patent directly) do so. But after that (and especially with patent trolls), it can be a lot of guesswork to figure out which shell company owns the patent, right up until someone files suit

  • I go to GDI's website and all I see is Windows. When I search for android, I get nothing. SCAM?
  • (IANAL) I am not sure why everyone seems to be upset when one company sues each other over Intellectual Property (IP) rights or when company signs an IP agreement with another company. This is how an IP economy works. The only way for companies to agree on price for IP is to have the court determine the price, settle out of court, or sign an agreement to obtain IP. Microsoft claims that some of its technologies used in Android infringe on their patents and they will negotiate a price or take a company to co

  • There is a story on groklaw about RightHaven being sued for barratry. I think that's a good thing. But, why just RightHaven and not Microsoft?

    * Barratry, in criminal and civil law, is the act or practice of bringing repeated legal actions solely to harass. This action is a crime in some jurisdictions.
    * Barratry also refers to the act of soliciting legal business from potential clients based on a particular event (whether or not the intent is to harass). Pejoratively, this is called ambulance chasing.
    * Barratry also referred to persistently inciting others to engage in litigation or other disputes or quarrels outside of the courts. This was a crime in England.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barratry

  • http://www.dailymarkets.com/stock/2011/06/29/microsoft-and-velocity-micro-inc-sign-patent-agreement-covering-android-based-devices/

    REDMOND, Wash., June 29, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — Microsoft Corp. and Velocity Micro, Inc., have signed a patent agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for Velocity Micro, Inc., Android-based devices, including Velocity Micro, Inc.’s Cruz Tablet. Although the contents of the agreement have not been disclosed, the parties indicate that Microsoft will receive royalties from Velocity Micro, Inc., under the agreement. (Logo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20000822/MSFTLOGO) “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Velocity Micro, Inc., to address and secure IP rights for its Android-based Cruz tablet devices,” said Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft. Randy Copeland, CEO of Velocity Micro, Inc., said, “By entering into this agreement with Microsoft, Velocity Micro, Inc., will be able to better meet the needs of our customers with the introduction of exciting new Cruz tablets having increased performance and functionality.” Microsoft’s Commitment to Licensing Intellectual Property The patent agreement is another example of the important role intellectual property (IP) plays in ensuring a healthy and vibrant IT ecosystem. Since Microsoft launched its IP licensing program in December 2003, the company has entered into more than 700 licensing agreements and continues to develop programs that make it possible for customers, partners and competitors to access its IP portfolio. The program was developed to open access to Microsoft’s significant R&D investments and its growing, broad patent and IP portfolio.

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