Redmond has said for a long time that it has patents for key parts of Linux, and now appears to be using them to try and squeeze cash from Google’s Android. HTC has already written a cheque to Microsoft, and it is widely expected that a legal letter has arrived at Google’s Motorola and Samsung partners.
Horacio Gutierrez, the company’s deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing has confirmed that he has had a few words with “with several device manufacturers to address our concerns relative to the Android mobile platform”. What this means is that Microsoft is using its undisclosed patents on different parts of Linux to make a bob or two off its rivals’ success.
This is identical to the strategy which was suggested by the anti-Linux bad-boy SCO a while back. Microsoft is attempting to send a message out there that Android is not free and could end up being very expensive.
Smartphone makers could end up having to shell out about $20 a phone to keep Microsoft’s lawyers at bay. Having seen what the SCO court case cost Novell and IBM it is not surprising that they want to avoid a reprise.
HTC is already facing a similar IP war with Apple and is seeking to block U.S. imports of HTC phones that run on Android. That case is pending before the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington.
Writing in his bog Gutierrez said the Apple case is proof that the mobile phone industry “is in the process of sorting out what royalties will be” for the software that adds the features such as Internet access and downloading capabilities.
In other words “You might think that Linux is free, but really you will end up paying the proprietary companies for their IP anyway.”