Skip to comments.Microsoft Sues Motorola Over Android Smartphones
Posted on 10/04/2010 7:59:37 AM PDT by ShadowAce
Microsoft has been talking smack to Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) of late, charging the search giant's Android operating system isn't as "free" as the company says it is and hinting that Android could end up entangled in a patent infringement lawsuit.
But talk is cheap. On Friday, Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) took a much bolder step, suing Motorola (NYSE: MOT) for allegedly infringing nine of the software titan's patents in its Droid mobile handsets, which are powered by Android.
"Microsoft filed an action today in the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington against Motorola for infringement of nine Microsoft patents by Motorolas Android-based smartphones," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft deputy general counsel, said in a blog post.
"The patents at issue relate to a range of functionality embodied in Motorolas Android smartphone devices that are essential to the smartphone user experience, including synchronizing email, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power," he added.
A Motorola spokesperson had no immediate comment.
"Motorola has not received a copy of the complaint, therefore we cannot comment at this point," the spokesperson said. "Motorola has a leading intellectual property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry. The company will vigorously defend itself in this matter."
Besides suing Motorola in U.S. District Court, Microsoft also launched a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The commission has the power to ban imports of products if they're found to be infringing.
Microsoft's suit requests treble damages, compensatory damages, and court costs, as well as a permanent injunction. That last item could completely undercut support for Android unless Motorola moves fast.
Motorola makes the popular Droid line of smartphones. In July, Motorola held 20 percent share of the U.S. market for smartphones, the third-largest, following LG (21 percent), and Samsung (23 percent), according to analytics firm comScore (NASDAQ: SCOR).
Android is based on the Linux kernel, so the message seems obvious.
Microsoft has been rattling its legal saber for more than three years about some 235 patents it claims that Linux vendors are infringing. However, the company has yet to sue any Linux vendors to date over the patent claims.
A Microsoft spokesperson confirmed that the suit against Motorola and the Android operating system is directly related to the earlier Linux discussion.
"Yes but lets be clear. This action is directed at a commercial entity, not a community. Technology companies that utilize open source software in their commercial products are sophisticated, revenue-generating businesses and as such, have the ability to license patents to secure the necessary IP rights for their products," the spokesperson told InternetNews.com.
The lawsuit comes at a time when Microsoft is about to launch Windows Phone 7, its challenger to Android-based smartphones and the iPhone.
As recently as August, Microsoft executives had been banging on their shields, proclaiming that Android isn't free, and that one of the benefits to both developers and customers if they go with a Microsoft solution is that the software giant will indemnify anyone who gets sued for intellectual property violations related to the company's products.
"Our action today merely seeks to ensure respect for our intellectual property rights infringed by Android devices; and ... we are not alone in this respect," Gutierrez said in a post to the Microsoft on the Issues blog Friday.
Microsoft's move is the latest attack on Android. In August, Oracle (NASDAQ: ORCL) sued Google for infringing several of its Java patents in Android.
But Microsoft's actions worry Florian Mueller, an opponent of software patents.
"These patent suits brought forward by industry giants with massive patent portfolios unmatched by Google are dark clouds over Android. Google must now act constructively and try to work out amicable arrangements with those right holders," Florian Mueller, founder of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign in Europe, said on his blog following Microsoft's filing.
"Otherwise I'm afraid that third-party application developers investing their money, creativity and hard work in the Android platform will be harmed because of an irresponsible approach to intellectual property in a market in which patents have always played an essential role," Mueller added.
So you’re saying that MS is to blame because it delegates
driver development to the hw vendors? Well, they (the vendors) do WHCL (Windows Hardware Compatibility List) testing on their products to assure MS that they meet
a certain standard of usability. They can then put the
MS logo in the box. The rest can still program to the
DDK (a public interface) and MS takes no position on that code’s reliability. If I am developing a new HW product
I can dive in and try to make it work without having to
beg MS to give me an interface. What does kind of free kernel access does Apple provide? Do they provide a free DDK? Or do I need to sign a NDA, get layers of approvals and pay $$ for the information?
Microsoft didn't delegate in the first place. What MS did is allow those device developers high-level access to the kernel where before they were put in userland where they couldn't do much damage. Once Microsoft decided to do that, their business model is what killed them, although it is now less of a problem because all drivers must be signed (and supposedly tested). Apple also gives privileged access to drivers, but Apple controls the hardware and drivers, making it less of a problem.
What does kind of free kernel access does Apple provide?
In my perfect world, NOBODY would give any drivers kernel access. Take RIM's upcoming tablet that will run QNX, which is an extremely stable microkernel system. Device drivers (including video and network) run in userland, and can be killed and restarted if they become unstable or crash without affecting the rest of the system.
-In my perfect world, NOBODY would give any drivers kernel access.-
That would certainly increase reliability. But I wonder
if such a model would be appropriate for primary storage and video. Some sort of DMA access would still be needed
for these devices to function at acceptable speed.
Andrew, is that you? <grin>
It's happening all the time, and monolithic/hybrid kernels have to timeslice that anyway. Integrity and QNX are examples in use today in the commercial market. They are also the only kind of operating systems that may be rated EAL7 one day. Windows will never get higher than its current EAL4, and neither will most operating systems, but Integrity is at EAL6+. The seL4 microkernel has even formally verified, and the only operating systems to be evaluated at EAL7 are microkernel-based (it's pretty much impossible for a monolithic kernel to get EAL7).
I think that one was part of Apple's lawsuit. Expect that Apples window says You computer has become unstable and needs to see an expensive therapist...
Okay, I admit that much of my early OS design knowledge I learned from him. Literally, he wrote my OS design college textbook. He wrote my networking textbook too. But most of my views in this area come from me being an anal-retentive neat freak when it comes to computing. Torvalds didn't want to tackle the performance issues of microkernels, thus advancing computer science, so he just went monolithic with something anybody could have built. And like any good professor, Tanenbaum called him on it.
There was a massive flood of Microsoft employees that headed to Google. I wonder if any of that was a result.
i can. Of course it had nothing to do with SuSE Linux. The fault was a defective stick of RAM.
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