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License or pay settlement, that's what Microsoft's lawyers are telling China's Huawei

Microsoft Corp. (MSFT) has drawn a great deal of flack from critics like Google Inc. (GOOG) for trying to force licensing on Android handset makers.  

The company insists that it’s merely trying to protect its inventions.  However, some question the fact that it's trying to force both manufacturers and OEMs to pay two separate fees on every Android device, in essence double-dipping on licenses.  Others point to the fact that some of its patents are on seemingly obvious software, such as loading images before text or displaying an animated loading icon when loading internet images.  These patents were largely granted during the lax late 90s and early 00s period at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The latest victim of Microsoft's patent wrath is Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei.  Rather than choose Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform, Huawei -- like most other manufacturers -- opted to primarily back Google's free, advertising supported Android platform.

In an interview with The Guardian, Huawei's chief marketing officer Victor Xu confirms that Microsoft is lusting after his company's Android profits.  He comments, "Yes, Microsoft has come to us.  We always respect the intellectual property of companies. But we have 65,000 patents worldwide too. We have enough to protect our interests. We are a very important stakeholder in Android."

Huawei Vision
Huawei is among the biggest Chinese Android OEMs. Pictured: Android 2.3 "Gingerbread" Huawei Vision [Source: Huawei via the Guardian]

Thus far Microsoft has forced two of the three largest Android handset manufacturers -- HTC Corp. (TPE:2498) and Samsung Electronics Comp., Ltd. (KS:005930) -- into licensing agreements, along with a host of smaller sellers [1][2][3].  Samsung was arguably the biggest surprise, as it was an industry veteran with thousands of patents which some believed would be enough to offer it protection from the licensing demands.

Shenzhen-based Huawei has seen most of its past revenue from mobile network infrastructure sales.  The company is the world's second largest maker of mobile network infrastructure behind Sweden's Ericsson SpA (STO:ERIC B) and ahead of France's Alcatel-Lucent (EPA:ALU) and Nokia Siemens (a joint venture between Finland's Nokia Oyj. (HEL:NOK1V) and Germany's Siemens AG (ETR:SIE)).  

But Huawei has grand aspirations for dominating the smartphone market, as well.  Mr. Xu states, "Over the next three years we are aiming to be in the top five smartphone makers, and in the top three in the next five years.  We have established very aggressive targets in the market."

Huawei Girl
Huawei dreams of becoming a top phonemaker. [Source: VR-Zone]

Huawei indicates that "negotiations are in progress" regarding a licensing agreement with Microsoft.  Huawei is looking to aggressively expand worldwide, so it must be wary of the more pro-plaintiff intellectual property atmospher outside of China.

Source: Guardian



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Not so fast....
By torpor on 11/8/2011 11:38:09 AM , Rating: 3
Back in the early days of the Internet, when Golden Gopher, BBS and Mosaic ruled the roost and connection speed was discussed in baud-y terms, methods around how to load remote data to a local screen were important, novel concepts that had a real effect on the user experience.

That, of course is when these "obvious" patents were filed.

Now that we're going back to a minimalist platform with a narrow pipe from the broadband world, some of these concepts are becoming important again. And ideas that became outmoded are important once again.

I have a lot less problem with Microsoft doing this than some others; Microsoft uses its patents in its products and does real R+D. Crying that what was old is new and important again doesn't make a patent invalid.




RE: Not so fast....
By FITCamaro on 11/8/2011 3:07:11 PM , Rating: 2
Well said.

I'll add all software companies have some patents that are "obvious". While I'd rather these patents be invalidated, as long as the company that owns it isn't trying to stifle other innovation by refusing to license them or making it insanely expensive to, I'm somewhat ok with things. But companies like Apple who get away with ridiculous patents on things they didn't even think up and then try to hold the industry hostage with them need a kick in the testicles.


RE: Not so fast....
By Solandri on 11/8/2011 4:15:44 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Back in the early days of the Internet, when Golden Gopher, BBS and Mosaic ruled the roost and connection speed was discussed in baud-y terms, methods around how to load remote data to a local screen were important, novel concepts that had a real effect on the user experience.

That, of course is when these "obvious" patents were filed.

The period you're describing is the 1980s and early 1990s. Those patents are expired (17 year patent duration prior to 1995).

The patents at issue here were granted around the time the world wide web became popular (1994-1995). Those are set to expire this year (if granted in 1994), or in a few more years (20 year term after 1995).

I was a Mosaic then a Netscape user in grad school back then. Most of the patents I've seen regarding this were obvious to me back then despite my major being engineering, not computer science. I found it annoying that the web browser would pause displaying text while it loaded an in-line image. Frequently I would read all the displayed text, then have to wait for a picture to load before being able to read the rest of the text.

The first thing that came to my mind was to display all the text first, then go back and fill in the image after it's down downloading. The exact method by which you do this can be complex (the text needs to be reflowed), so I can see that being patented. But unfortunately the patent is for simply the concept of displaying text before the images are downloaded, which was obvious even to a non-CS major like me.


"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997














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