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Microsoft Sues Barnes & Noble over Android-Based Nook

Microsoft has fired another salvo against Google's Android open source mobile OS, this time by filing a lawsuit against the creators of the Nook e-reader and the Nook Color Tablet device.

Microsoft filed a lawsuit on Monday in the U.S. District Court for Western Washington against Barnes & Noble, as well as Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec Corp., the bookseller's device manufacturing partners. The lawsuit concerns intellectual property patents that Microsoft alleges are being used in the Nook devices. According to Microsoft, the technologies being infringed include some basic user interface navigational solutions and a solution that allows the delivery of Web content prior to the arrival of the background image.

The navigation technologies alleged to be infringed include the use of tabs in a control window, showing download status and a text-selection facility. Microsoft is also alleging infringement for a technology that lets users "annotate text without changing the underlying document," according to its announcement.

The company pointed to its patent-licensing deal inked with HTC in April 2010 as evidence that the Android OS is encumbered by unresolved patent issues. That deal perhaps marked the first salvo in Microsoft's targeting of the Linux-based mobile OS, which has been adopted by many of Microsoft's hardware device manufacturing partners for smartphone products. HTC, in addition to getting sued by Microsoft, is a partner with Microsoft on Windows Phone 7 devices.

Microsoft also sued its device-manufacturing partner Motorola in October, alleging that nine patents were violated by Motorola's use of Android in its smartphones. The alleged use of Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync technology by Motorola is also under contention in the continuing litigation.

Microsoft achieved a licensing deal with Amazon.com over use of patented Microsoft technologies in Amazon.com's Kindle e-reader device, noted Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel. However, he claimed that Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec have been holding out after "more than a year of discussions," leaving Microsoft no choice but to sue.

Microsoft is generally sending out the message that Android is the target. It wants companies to license its intellectual property if they use the mobile OS, which was fostered and developed, in part, by Google.

"The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights," Gutierrez stated.

Gutierrez was one of Microsoft's legal counsels who claimed, nearly four years ago, that Linux violates 235 of Microsoft's patents. That caused uproar among the Linux community at the time, but in this announcement, Gutierrez depicted Microsoft as a somewhat reluctant litigator.

"Together with the patents already asserted in the course of our litigation against Motorola, today's actions bring to 25 the total number of Microsoft patents in litigation for infringement by Android smartphones, tablets and other devices," Gutierrez stated in the announcement. "Microsoft is not a company that pursues litigation lightly. In fact, this is only our seventh proactive patent infringement suit in our 36-year history. But we simply cannot ignore infringement of this scope and scale."

Gutierrez claimed that Microsoft generally prefers licensing over resorting to lawsuits. Microsoft quickly settled with Salesforce.com in August after suing the provider of on-demand CRM solutions over nine allegedly infringed technologies. Salesforce.com had countersued and the final settlement involved cross-licensing agreement.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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