Microsoft's secret to success is a simple one. Why rely on innovative products, when an army of lawyers armed with flimsy patents and deep retainers will do the trick. At least that's what it looks like if you believe a detailed brake down of Microsoft's most recent claim filed against Barnes & Noble, who claim at Microsoft's patents cover "cover only arbitrary, outmoded and non-essential design features". The Redmond-based software giant, for their, part claim their legal pressure is to insure a level playing field but considering some of the patents in question were invalidated almost two decades ago it seems clear that Microsoft is trying to use it's mired of lawyers to turn Android into the ultimate cash cow.
In a recent filing with the International Trade Commission and the US Department of Justice Barnes & Noble detailed the six patents that Microsoft has used to force OEM to pay them royalties on over half of all Android handsets sold world wide.
- Background Image Loading: an outdated method for embedding images in backgrounds, optimized for dial-up connections. Wow, glad to know that my 3G phone can handle dial-up speeds.
- Operating system provided tabs: Microsoft apparently claims the right to all technologies in Android that make use of tabs to organize information. This I would almost give them, if IBM hadn't proven this patent invalid back in '92 (according to extremetech.com)
- Handles when selecting text
- Annotation of electronic documents
- Web browser loading status icons: Seriously, Microsoft?
- Simulating mouse inputs using non-mouse devices: This would in effect mean all touch or gesture based interfaces would infringe on Microsoft's conceptual patent.
It's hard to understand why so many companies with their on armies of lawyers – HTC, Samsung– would roll over and play nice when faced with such flimsy patent claims. Of course, given the on-going legal struggles between Samsung and Apple, it's easy to see how it would be easier to pay Microsoft to just go away but in that case, Microsoft's legal pressure is nothing more then a cheap extortion attempt.
Hopefully Barns & Noble will have the guts to see this legal fight out. It would be an epic win for the Android community, if one of the biggest patent trolls of them all was finally taken down.
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