Barnes and Noble books Microsoft's patent trollage


Sami Hyypiä, LFC legend
Barnes and Noble books Microsoft's patent trollage

Book seller Barnes and Noble has hit out at Microsoft's bullying Android antics. While some manufacturers are paying up to give prevent Microsoft suing them over Android licences, Barnes and Noble has refused and now some of its reasons for doing so are appearing online.

Court documents found by Groklaw show that Barnes and Noble is rebelling against an "oppressive" licensing agreement which Vole is forcing down the throats of Android customers. It seems that Vole is leaning on Android licensees using the same anti-trust tactics that got it into trouble with the US Justice Department.

Barnes and Noble claim that the Volish license agreements go far beyond just paying to use some "trivial' patents. Microsoft appears to be trying to control future Android development. Groklaw has been showing exhibits and letters that Barnes & Nobles legal team has submitted to the courts and the Patent Office. What it is starting to look like is that Apple, Oracle, RIM and Microsoft formed an unholy alliance and bid almost 5 billion dollars to buy the Novell patents. Those patents were not originally filed regarding Mobile use but are being asserted against mobile OS functionality.

Meanwhile, Nokia and Microsoft's partnership on mobile phones appears to be more than just getting Vole into the mobile market. The two control a huge library of patents that can be brought to bear to shut down Android and control the mobile OS space. It looks like the plan is if that if Microsoft can't encourage anyone over to Windows Mobile they are going to make a killing by taxing Android.

Barnes and Noble thinks that Microsoft is forcing Android makers have to buy a Windows Mobile phone license for each Android set they sell. Sometimes Vole is making more from allowing an Android licence than it does from flogging a Windows one, Nokia points out. What is worse is that the Volish patents being used are "trivial" and "insignificant" in terms of Android's use. Barnes and Noble claim Microsoft is using these patents for minor functionality which all adds up. The court evidence appears to show that Vole makes license holders sign an "oppressive" agreement which gives Microsoft say over future hardware and software configurations and innovations.

If Android starts to advance too far, too fast, then Microsoft can effectively order manufactures to keep the status quo. Barnes and Noble is also asking the Department of Justice to look into Microsoft's Android actions as a prelude to another Anti-Trust action.

Microsoft’s Android bullying revealed by Barnes & Noble | ExtremeTech
There has been no lack of vitriol thrown Microsoft’s way these past few weeks in regards to the software giant’s litigious attitude towards Android. Many have conjectured that Redmond’s primary MO is to use its patent portfolio to generate a revenue flow from Android rather than protecting intellectual property. Up until now there was no proof of such, but with the recent release of information from Barnes & Noble about how Microsoft has been trying to nail it with the gavel, we now have insight as to what’s going on behind the legal curtain.

In a detailed breakdown of Barnes & Nobles’ letter to the ITC and the US Department of Justice, Groklaw does an excellent job of shedding light on the exact patents Microsoft is claiming Android infringes on. All of them are in regards to trivial items, most of them from outdated features.

Here are the six patents that Redmond is using to bully such companies as HTC, Samsung and Amazon:

  • Background image loading. This patent deals with an antiquated method of downloading an embedded background image. It is geared towards people using dial-up connections, which shows its age. It is a bit puzzling that it’s being applied to Android; last we checked the data rate for smartphones is well above 56Kbps.
  • Operating system provided tabs. Another head-scratcher here, Microsoft is saying that it has the rights to “tabs that work like dividers in a notebook” that are OS-generated. What’s interesting is IBM already proved this patent as invalid back in 1992 during the OS/2 days. Tabs are something that are present in all platforms on the market. Why wait until now to drag this dead horse back out?
  • Handles when selecting text. Are you beginning to see the pattern of ridiculousness here? Redmond’s lawyers are saying that they own the right to the handles that appear when a user selects text on a device. The problem with this one is that the patent does not provide the code that was used to achieve the handles — so who knows if B&N, or any other Android users, are actually infringing.
  • Annotation of electronic documents. This is the process of capturing annotations made in an e-book or similar document without changing the original copy. It sounds like Microsoft is losing a ton of money on this one.
  • Web browser loading status icons.
  • Simulating mouse inputs using non-mouse devices. So every touchscreen ever created should have to pay royalties or licensing fees to Microsoft.

With Microsoft trying to leverage these trivial patents it makes you wonder why HTC, Samsung, and more recently Amazon, rolled over and made deals to avoid litigation. Yes, all three companies have the resources to just pay Redmond to go away, but on its face looks like an easy win. It will be interesting to see how Barnes & Nobel fares during this process.

More details about the case here.
Groklaw - Barnes & Noble Exposes Microsoft's "Trivial" Patents and Strategy Against Android ~pj Updated
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