Microsoft’s Brad Smith: We Haven’t Seen an Android Product That Doesn’t Infringe on Our Patents
Although Microsoft says it evaluates each phone and tablet individually, General Counsel Brad Smith said Wednesday that it believes every hardware maker that ships an Android device has a patent issue that needs to be addressed.
“So far we have not seen a single Android device that does not infringe on our patents,” Smith said. Microsoft’s solution is fairly simple: it is seeking a per-unit royalty for each Android product that ships. The company reached a key milestone on Wednesday as it announced that it had signed a deal with Samsung under which the Korean firm will pay Microsoft a royalty for every Android phone and tablet it sells.
“I think there is a good chance we will look back at today and say this was the day that we reached a tipping point in the market,” Smith told AllThingsD in a telephone interview.
Following a deal with HTC, Smith said last year that the company was “open for business” when it came to licensing its patents to Android device makers. Having signed Samsung is a big deal, Smith noted, particularly since Samsung and HTC account for a significant majority of the Android phones sold in the United States. “I think it sends a clear signal to everybody else in the market that we now have a clear path forward for resolving issues that are clearly on everybody’s mind,” Smith said.
In addition to HTC and Samsung, Microsoft has also signed Android-related patent deals with ViewSonic, Acer and a number of lesser-known companies. Microsoft has also sued both Motorola and Barnes & Noble over Android-related patent claims.
Of course, Microsoft’s solution — that Android makers pay it for each unit they sell — may not be something that every hardware maker is willing to agree to.
Google, for its part, lashed out at the deal.
“This is the same tactic we’ve seen time and again from Microsoft,” the company said in a statement. “Failing to succeed in the smartphone market, they are resorting to legal measures to extort profit from others’ achievements and hinder the pace of innovation. We remain focused on building new technology and supporting Android partners.”
Although the deal with Samsung also calls for further cooperation around Windows Phone, Smith said that Microsoft is seeking a standard per-unit royalty figure from handset makers, regardless of whether they are partnered with Microsoft around Windows Phone. He declined to offer further specifics on the amount Microsoft is seeking, except to confirm that it is less than the company would attempt to garner if it is forced to go to court.
Smith also points out that the deal covers both phones and tablets.
Of course, that raises the question about a certain Android tablet that Microsoft’s Seattle-area neighbors introduced on Wednesday.
Smith didn’t comment directly on Amazon’s Kindle Fire. Microsoft and Amazon have a prior agreement that covers the original Kindle and other Linux-based products from Amazon, though that deal does not cover Android products.
As for the broader mobile patent issues swirling in the industry, Smith said that there may be some drama yet to unfold, but that there is likely to be resolution to those as well.
“Ultimately we will see licensing regimes emerge,” Smith said. “That doesn’t mean that there won’t be some dramatic events between now and the time that happens.”