Microsoft says it has filed patent infringement lawsuits against Barnes & Noble and the manufacturers of its Nook e-reader, based on the Redmond company’s assertion that the Android operating system violates its intellectual property.

The lawsuits, naming manufacturers Foxconn and Inventec in addition to the book giant, were filed in the U.S. District Court in Seattle and the International Trade Commission. Microsoft says the patents in dispute “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.”

[Follow-up: Details on the patents Microsoft is using to sue Barnes & Noble]

Microsoft filed a similar action last year against Motorola, over its use of Android. The company’s claims against Android first became apparent earlier last year, when it reached a patent deal with HTC over Android.

Here’s the statement on the new case from Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing.

“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. Other vendors, including HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, have taken a license under this program, and 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.”

Update: Here is Microsoft’s statement on the issue. A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman said via phone that the company doesn’t comment on litigation as a matter of policy.

Comments

  • http://www.naffziger.net/blog davenaff

    Interested in your thoughts on the implications on the Kindle team’s Android developer hiring spree (and the related implications of Kindle running on Android).

    Related:
    http://www.geekwire.com/2011/amazons-kindle-unit-hiring-android-devs

    • Anonymous

      Dave, great question. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some unannounced Android-related provisions in the broad patent cross-licensing agreement signed between Microsoft and Amazon a year ago: http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/press/2010/feb10/02-22msamazonpr.mspx

      • http://www.naffziger.net/blog davenaff

        That would seem to be likely. I’d think both of them are (rightly) more concerned about Google than about each other.

        • Vegard

          Amazon has software and some patents related to software.

          Barnes&Noble probably does not. Thus, it’s relatively safe to sue B&N, they won’t risk counter-suit.

          Secondly, the NDA they demand is because noone should tell Google or anyone else what is infringing. Microsoft would rather like a steady stream of licensing money than someone actually *fixing* the infringement…

  • http://twitter.com/volomike Mike McKee

    One more reason why I will never buy another Microsoft product, and I tell 10 other people about this issue too.

    • Micky

      That is demonizing Microsoft with no good reason. They have a valid point and they have every right to claim patents and the resulting revenue out of it.

      If patenting is right then what Microsoft is doing in this case is also perfectly legal and morally right.

      Opposing this means you are ok with Google coppying/canibalizing every software out there and handing it out for free and then make money out of that. That is almost like stealing from others pockets and claiming innocense, that is just not right.

      • Pholynyk

        “If patenting is right then what Microsoft is doing in this case is also perfectly legal and morally right. ”

        That’s a big IF… There are a lot of pretty smart lawyers in the US (and elsewhere) who think the US Supreme Court got it wrong. In my opinion, there are NO valid software patents.

        • Guest

          Patents are the law of the land. Your opinion of them really doesn’t matter.

      • Nope, try again

        Microsoft has a well-known business practice of fast-following other’s innovations (read – copying) and filing patents on their own copied ideas. Starting from Gates’ dumpster-diving for his Basic language listings, Windows GUI as a copy of Palo Alto Research Center’s example to Apple, Vista as a copy of Apple, Win Phone as a copy of iPhone, and Windows 8 as a copy of iPad. Need we go on?

        • Whatever

          Vista as a copy of Apple? WP7 as a copy of iOS? LOL. I want whatever you’re drinking.

        • That was a mistake

          Congrats, you win the award for most retarded thing I have read this week.

          It’s like you learned everything about computer history from gizmodo’s comment section. No, don’t go on. Please stop.

        • guest

          Please stop posting. You’re just making yourself look like an idiot. Of course it’s pretty obvious that you’re also an Apple fanboy and are just astroturfing for them.

      • http://hal-obrien.livejournal.com/ Hal O’Brien

        “If patenting is right then what Microsoft is doing in this case is also perfectly legal and morally right.”

        Not necessarily. Consider this quote in the report:

        “Microsoft says the patents in dispute “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.””

        I think the argument can be made that if that’s what covered by the patents, then they’re near frivolous in the genericness. The clause in the Constitution that establishes patents says:

        “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”

        If Microsoft has been successful in getting various procedures that do not constitute progress, are not inventive, and haven’t discovered anything — if they’ve been successful at getting such things patented, then it is Microsoft that is showing contempt for the law, contempt for the Constitution, contempt for the patent process, and contempt for moral rights.

        • Guest

          Nice rant. But if MS’s patents were so trivial, don’t you think Google would have waded in long ago to defend Android? Crickets…

          • http://hal-obrien.livejournal.com/ Hal O’Brien

            “But if MS’s patents were so trivial, don’t you think Google would have waded in long ago to defend Android?”

            This is not unlike the old joke about the economist who walked past a $20 bill on the street — surely if it wasn’t a hallucination, somebody else would have picked it up by now.

            As may be — I for one make no assumptions either way. For example, I don’t assume multiple statements that start, “If…” are a full representation of the facts. (Good thing there’s no technical use for IF statements, eh?)

      • jd

        Come on. Ignoring the fact that ‘legal’ and ‘morally right’ are at best only loosely coorelated. No one stole anything from microsoft. This is not any different than MS complaining about patent trolls… except that in this case MS is the troll.

    • Guest

      If you’re never going to buy a product from technology companies who have filed suit to defend their patents, then your list of viable vendors must have become very small indeed.

  • Gubatron

    So Google makes android for “free” but Microsoft charges license for it. Interesting.

  • http://twitter.com/starinacasket sarah gillespie

    WHYYYYY?

    this is crap, i just want my nook color to have android 2.2 already.

  • Joe the Coder

    This is all just a giant game of chicken. Big companies rattle their patent sabers all the time when they can’t compete any other way. Expect a multiyear battle with Google engineering out any “real” infringements by then. Only the lawyers win on this one.

    • Guest

      Like Apple suing HTC or Oracle suing Google?

  • NedReader

    I think simpleton patents such as patents on ways to use computers should never be awarded. I mean come on, is “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” really patentable. I think not.

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