Print 25 comment(s) - last by BigEdMan.. on Feb 26 at 4:03 AM

Licensing rates were not disclosed

Remember Nikon Corp.'s (TYO:7731) Android-powered smart cameras like the Coolpix S800c?  Well it appears that adding Google Inc.'s (GOOG) free operating system isn't going to be quite so free -- Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has successfully shaken down the Japanese camera maker for a licensing fee.

Most of the top Android phonemakers -- including HTC Corp. (TPE:2498and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KSC:005930) -- pay licensing fees ranging from $10 to $15 per unit to Microsoft.  Now it appears that the camera makers will be following in suit.  (Samsung presumably pays Microsoft a licensing fee on its "Galaxy" Android smartcameras).

In a press release Microsoft gloats:

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 1,100 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. Microsoft’s specific patent licensing program for Android device makers has resulted in signed license agreements with numerous companies including Samsung, LG, HTC, Acer and Barnes & Noble.

Nikon Coolpix S800c

The licensing agreement is a cautionary tale to other camera makers.  Incorporating a smartphone-like OS into your point and shoot camera may be appealing, but it won't be free -- you'll have to pay the Microsoft tax.

Source: Microsoft

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Doing it Right
By CaedenV on 2/22/2013 12:38:17 PM , Rating: 5
This is the one thing that I love about MS that I hate about Apple. Where apple would view all competition as a terrible thing, and always seeks to shut down or absorb everyone who is not themselves, MS creates avenues to allow other companies to use their IP at a relatively low price point.
Granted, the price point could (and arguably should) be lower when talking about a per-device fee, but I would much rather live in a world where if you want to do something interesting you can do it, rather than the apple world where creativity is locked up in a bottle that is never to be touched.

RE: Doing it Right
By SeeManRun on 2/22/2013 12:41:39 PM , Rating: 4
A device fee might be better if your device flops. It would be unfortunately to pay 1 million for a license and only sell 5000 units...

RE: Doing it Right
By CaedenV on 2/22/2013 12:56:02 PM , Rating: 2
so true

RE: Doing it Right
By othercents on 2/22/2013 1:12:11 PM , Rating: 2
This "tax" is only specific to the Android based cameras which I believe only applies to the S800c. The rest of the cameras are still running a different OS.

RE: Doing it Right
By Nortel on 2/22/13, Rating: -1
RE: Doing it Right
By Bateluer on 2/22/2013 3:08:26 PM , Rating: 4
Apple wouldn't license at all, they would sue to block the Nikon smart cameras from the market entirely. Only to come back a year later with their own smart camera, claim they invented it, and call it magical.

Microsoft's Android Tax is a scumbag policy that stifles innovation and harms consumers. Especially when Microsoft's own smartphone OS has been dead in the water. But, it does not outright block products from coming to market and getting to the customer. Google still needs to take a more active role in combating IP trolls like Microsoft.

RE: Doing it Right
By KoolAidMan1 on 2/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Doing it Right
By JPForums on 2/25/2013 10:39:48 AM , Rating: 3
Not true, Apple licenses to many companies, Microsoft and HTC being two of them. Samsung refused to pay license fees to Apple, that's why it ended up going to court.
This makes you wonder how high the required fee must have been or how absurd the patent must have been if the same Samsung is willing to pay $10-$15 per android handset to Microsoft. While I don't particularly care for patent trolling in general, I have to assume at this point that either Microsoft's either terms are significantly more reasonable or their patents are significantly less disputable than Apple's. Otherwise, Microsoft would be contested as much as Apple is.

RE: Doing it Right
By Strunf on 2/25/2013 12:09:50 PM , Rating: 2
Apple probably works on a per costumer basis, since Samsung is the nr°1 phone maker they probably set the price as high as possible just to make it not worthy for Samsung, had HTC be the nr 1 phone maker they would probably get the same treatment Samsung got, people really shouldn't see the Apple-HTC as an act of goodwill, it's a ploy to make HTC a better competitor against Samsung, as in the enemy of my enemy is my friend... The MS case is a whole different story, no one really knows how many patents MS has on the user interface, protocols and others... Apple doesn't want to know it either, this Android Tax is due to this too, for a manufacturer is probably cheaper to pay this Android tax than face MS in a court.

RE: Doing it Right
By BigEdMan on 2/26/2013 4:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
Strunf "...for a manufacturer is probably cheaper to pay this Android tax than face MS in a court."
No, it's cheaper to pay this Android tax than face MS & Apple in court!
The MS/crApple cross licensing agreement buys you a lot of protection for many of crApple's similar patents.

IMHO we need a Really Big crApple / Google patent war.

RE: Doing it Right
By ResStellarum on 2/23/2013 10:52:58 AM , Rating: 3
This is the one thing that I love about MS that I hate about Apple.

You love Microsoft for taxing something that's free?

MS creates avenues to allow other companies to use their IP at a relatively low price point.

Microsoft's supposed IP all revolves around the ubiquitous FAT, an over a decade old file system layout, one which I might hasten to add has prior art. Specifically, Linus Torvalds described a long/short file name system long before Microsoft patented it.

but I would much rather live in a world where if you want to do something interesting you can do it, rather than the apple world where creativity is locked up in a bottle that is never to be touched.

Except that by slapping the Microsoft tax on other systems, it actually stops smaller startups from using them to innovate. The "Microsoft Tax" is unfortunately spreading everywhere Microsoft feels threatened. First it was OEM's who had to pay a fee to Microsoft even if alternative OS's like GNU/Linux were installed on a PC, now it's Android. Microsoft can't compete with "free", so it has to raise of the price of "free" using dubious patents. That's a clear abuse of the patent system to suppress competition.

RE: Doing it Right
By FaaR on 2/24/13, Rating: 0
RE: Doing it Right
By JPForums on 2/25/2013 11:05:16 AM , Rating: 3
MS never invented either digital cameras, portable computing devices or touchscreens, but somehow they deserve a patent for combining these already-existing elements?
No, they don't have a patent for combining these already existing elements. You're confusing Microsoft with Apple. They have what appears to be a patent on a three decade old (guesstimate) piece of technology that happens to be implemented in Android. While the willingness of companies like Samsung to pay Microsoft's fee suggests the patent is more valid than the one's that Samsung is contesting with Apple, I still have to wonder how long a patent can be used to extract money out of the competition.

While the rest of you post seems a little extreme, I do agree that it would be effective. Though, I think I'd rather keep the ones willing to immediately desist and play by the rules than risk another set of blatant extortionist take over in place of the old.

Of course, the real problem is the fact that this kind of abuse is perfectly legal. The patent system need not go away, but stricter definitions for what is considered innovative, increasing fees for repeated submitals, and limitations on both the life of the patent and the length of time between when a product is released and a corresponding lawsuit can be filed would probably help. Better to fix the engine than to tape up the leak.

What a crappy spin on a common business practice
By Nekrik on 2/22/2013 1:11:49 PM , Rating: 4
MS spends hundreds of millions on RND, and to keep funding that RND, which covers new techs like Kinect, or their efforts to thwart malware, bots, etc... they collect liscensing fees for the IP that they own (as mentioned in the article where the author refers to them gloating). Its sad to see well known sites like this try to inject such negetive spin on a common business practice that is utilized by nearly every company. As mentioned in another post, it's far better that they share the IP rather than use to push other players out of the market.

By kingbee1333 on 2/22/2013 1:42:52 PM , Rating: 3
Yeap Google just uses whatever they want, leaves the OEMs to fend for themselves, Apple just plays the sue card. Microsoft must not be extorting these companies, Motorola is the only holdout. B&N threatened a lawsuit, but ended up in a joint venture with MS instead.

By ResStellarum on 2/23/2013 11:00:37 AM , Rating: 2
Just to add to what you said sprockkets, none of Microsoft's claimed patents against Android have actually been tested in court. I have a feeling they'd all be invalidated like FAT due to prior art and being far too vague.

By JPForums on 2/25/2013 11:12:07 AM , Rating: 2
Back in the day, they may not have been so obvious and perhaps even deserving of the patents at the time, but seriously, how long can they keep charging for them. It may have been innovative two decades ago, but its old school now.

By reneemariejones on 2/22/2013 11:44:01 PM , Rating: 2
Coal miners work hard. Do they get a monopoly on coal? Microsoft never invented any of this crap. Read the patents. They are worthless junk that describe nothing. Worthless junk. Just licenses from the government to shake down the people who actually build things.

By Strunf on 2/25/2013 12:25:42 PM , Rating: 2
As if no other companies spent hundreds of millions in RnD... Intel and Samsung spend BILLIONS in RnD, Nikon itself spends close to a billion... it's not uncommon that companies in this fields spend over 10% of their budget in RnD.

Microsoft tax
By reneemariejones on 2/22/2013 11:41:31 PM , Rating: 3
It is sick that thugs like Microsoft are allowed to steal from everyone like this. The USPTO is to blame for issuing all of these inane patents, thugs like Microsoft are to blame for applying for patents on things that they know they never invented, and we are to blame for allowing this insanity to continue.

RE: Microsoft tax
By ResStellarum on 2/23/2013 11:03:57 AM , Rating: 2
Hear, hear! ;)

By Fastyle on 2/22/2013 3:29:37 PM , Rating: 2
I for one think it is time for someone to develop a new and open storage system aka (File Allocation Table). which most of these (Microsoft) licensing agreements are (or start out as) being based on.

To think that if we had intellectual property laws as far back as say, the wheel, the container be it square or round (ooh wait, "I have the paten on round", "you have to pay me for every wheel you make". The impact on our society's progress would be long felt.

I for one will not be "licensing" Office 365, or any other software annually (there are alternatives), to continue to have to pay annually to use software is Ludacris. Soon it will be the OS that is preinstalled on your device be it PC, phone, tablet, camera or what ever else. Who wants that POS new OS any way, Microsoft is trying to force you to learn their phone and tablet OS on the PC so your more willing buy (or would that be “license”) their product next time, last I looked they had less then 3% of the cell phone market where all the money is (how often does the average person buy each of these), and a yet to be determined tablet market.

What's next, the government make us all pay a licensing fee to use the very tax system they've developed to tax us? and speaking of tax, isn't that what a licensing fee is, I thought only the government could do that and get away with it!

By sprockkets on 2/22/13, Rating: 0
By Darksurf on 2/24/2013 9:06:45 PM , Rating: 2
Samsung has already invented a solution for this problem and they just donated it to the Linux Kernel. its called the F2FS filesystem. Its meant for Solid State and bare-nand devices. So basically flash drives, SD cards, SSDs, and devices that have bare nand flash such as android phones and mobile devices.

Since they have a working linux/android model (which can be easily ported to BSD and Mac due to it being opensource) they just need to get a working windows driver.

Microsoft can eat **** and die.

"We basically took a look at this situation and said, this is bullshit." -- Newegg Chief Legal Officer Lee Cheng's take on patent troll Soverain

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