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Samsung Joins Ranks of Android Vendors Licensing Microsoft Patents 186

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the bill-gates-always-wins dept.
theodp writes "GeekWire reports that Microsoft and Samsung just announced a patent licensing agreement that gives Samsung legal coverage for its use of Google's Android OS in its smartphones. Under the deal, which covers both mobile phones and tablets, Microsoft says it will receive unspecified royalties for every Android device that Samsung sells. Microsoft previously struck a similar patent deal with HTC, under which Microsoft is reportedly receiving $5 for every Android handset that HTC sells. This latest deal leaves Motorola Mobility, with which Microsoft is currently in litigation, as the only major Android smartphone manufacturer in the U.S. without a license to Microsoft's patent portfolio."
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Samsung Joins Ranks of Android Vendors Licensing Microsoft Patents

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  • by Microlith (54737)

    Barnes and Noble is currently fighting MS in court, even if they aren't a smartphone vendor.

    • I think the funniest day to come will be when (hopefully not "if") Microsoft loses that one in court.

      I wonder if the companies currently paying up could turn around and sue Microsoft if that happens?

      • by Joce640k (829181)

        That depends on the contract they sign, but it's *very* unlikely that a patent troll would sign a contract that allowed people to get their money back if the patent is found invalid.

      • You know what is really funny. It seems that just about everybody is making money off Android except Google. Sure they show some ads, but they show them to everybody.
        • by Flipao (903929)
          You know what's funnier?, Google makes money from search and advertising on both iOS and Android devices. Talk about win/win. Even better is the fact that MS makes more money from Android that they'll ever make from WP7.
          • I guess I missed my point. Google is spending money on Android, but gets no direct revenue from it that it wouldn't get anyway. Only reason it makes sense for Google to do this is that other platform makers could try to close or obstruct the advertising revenue from Google, which I think is very unlikely scenario.
    • by NFN_NLN (633283)

      This latest deal leaves Motorola Mobility, with which Microsoft is currently in litigation, as the only major Android smartphone manufacturer in the U.S. without a license to Microsoft's patent portfolio."

      The article fails to mention that Google bought MMI (http://www.marketwatch.com/story/google-buys-moto-gives-microsoft-an-opening-goog-mmi-aapl-rimm-nok-msft-2011-08-15). So when they say Motorola Mobility, they really mean Google. Things will probably get interesting when Google fires back with some of MMI's patents.

      Then again the whole thing is a non-productive waste of time and resources. Three cheers for a broken and counter-productive patent system.

  • Extortion (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cmdr_klarg (629569) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:20AM (#37540224)

    Legalized extortion is what this is. Patent reform is needed, and needed sooner rather than later.

    • Link to the petition to end software patents [slashdot.org] then. It's a small step but a step forward nevertheless.
    • Didn't you hear? It was already reformed, just last week - it's not about inventions anymore, it's about $$$ and who can file the paper work first..
    • by westlake (615356)

      Legalized extortion is what this is. Patent reform is needed, and needed sooner rather than later.

      These are grown-ups signing licensing agreements with Microsoft. Companies like General Dynamics, the sixth largest defense contractor in the world.

      Samsung with revenues of $172 billion and with 276,000 employees. 50 years experience in consumer electronics. Manufactuer of 800 million mobile phones. Samsung [wikipedia.org]

      So tell me what you know about these patents that Samsung's engineers, legal counsel, management and financial advisors do not.

  • by sl4shd0rk (755837) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:22AM (#37540242)

    They didn't make android and sure as hell didn't make the Linux OS it runs it. Why is it that microsoft is able to extort money like this?

    • by Andy Dodd (701)

      FAT Long File Name support

      • by jrumney (197329)
        Licensing the FAT patents costs $0.25. The license fees Microsoft is reported to be getting from HTC are $5. So FAT is a small part of what they are claiming.
    • by tepples (727027) <tepples&gmail,com> on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:27AM (#37540296) Homepage Journal
      Microsoft invented the file system used by many Android-powered devices to store data on SD cards, including a major enhancement released in 1995 that allowed file names to exceed the 8.3 limitation of early versions of this file system. This enhancement, commonly called "VFAT", is patented.
      • It's a shame that it's the de-facto standard for a file system that you can plug into anything.

        If the card was formatted as ext2, it wouldn't be a patent issue any more - it's a shame about the droves of users complaining about not being able to read their SD card on Windows...

        You can get ext2 file system drivers for Windows (and they've been available for some time), but MS choose not to integrate any kind of support for "foreign" file systems into their OS.

        • You can get ext2 file system drivers for Windows

          Can a user who is not a member of the administrators group install such driver? And there appears to be a chicken-and-egg problem: how does one load such driver onto an Internet-disconnected PC without first inserting a memory card formatted in FAT or NTFS?

          • And there appears to be a chicken-and-egg problem: how does one load such driver onto an Internet-disconnected PC without first inserting a memory card formatted in FAT or NTFS?

            FAT is fine. Just keep to 8.3 length filenames and you do not infringe on any patents.

            • by tepples (727027)
              I've been told (I don't remember where) that FAT32 is also patented, whether or not long filenames are involved. Any volume bigger than 2 GiB that Windows can read and write is going to be either FAT32 or NTFS.
              • I've been told (I don't remember where) that FAT32 is also patented, whether or not long filenames are involved.

                I think the patents just cover long filenames, but I could be wrong. However, the Windows driver to the read/write ext2 filesystem fits on a single floppy disk so it does not require FAT32. It could also fit on a CD-ROM, which also does not require any Microsoft patented technology.

                • However, the Windows driver to the read/write ext2 filesystem fits on a single floppy disk [...] It could also fit on a CD-ROM

                  So one would have to carry a USB CD-ROM drive in order to install the ext2 driver on any computer that one uses. Otherwise, you're just replacing the Microsoft patents with the U3 patents.

                  • by Sun (104778)

                    Huawei phones, when connected to a PC, show themselves as a CDROM containing the drivers for their sync technology. If you select to share your internal SD Card, then an ADDITIONAL DoK appears to the PC.

                    I believe they were not the first to do such a thing.

                    Shachar

                    • by RMH101 (636144)
                      Um, so how would the drivers present themselves to a vanilla PC, if not via FAT?
                    • FAT isn't patented vFAT is (long file names).
                      CD-ROMs (and these phones) use ISO9660 a completely unrelated and unpattented file-system that Windows also supports (all be it read only in early versions).

                    • by Sun (104778)

                      CDROMs are formatted in a filesystem called ISO-9660, which is not FAT. There are extensions to this format (Juliet, RockRidge), and these, too, are not FAT.

                      Shachar

        • I'm pretty sure only about 14 cents of the $5 is FAT32-related, and the bulk of it is due to patents that originated with Windows Mobile. Like it or hate it, WinMo was doing more or less the same stuff Android does today circa 2004. IOS and Android just made it pretty, and gave the dialer app a finger-friendly user interface.

          Architecturally, PalmOS phones and WinMo phones were VERY different, and iPhones & Android phones have more in common with WinMo than PalmOS hardware.

          Metaphorically:

          A PalmOS phone (

          • by tlhIngan (30335)

            Actually, it's a bit disingenious to think that you can stick a modem to a serial port and call it a day. Hardware wise, that's all it is in all smartphones - even highly integrated chips have the baseband connected to the application CPU core via a standard interface like USB or shared memory or somesuch. Very easy and separates cleanly.

            The software tack that resides on the application core (regardless of Android, WinMo, iOS, PalmOS, etc) is where the money's at. You may think it's trivial issuing AT comma

          • That is really quite metaphorically, because at least one of the last Windows Mobile phones (HTC HD2) had almost the same hardware as Nexus One, so porting Android to that phone was not that difficult. There are also ports for other Windows Mobile devices.

            • Well, the HD2 was kind of an exception, because it was literally the last of the line and was already well into the Android evolutionary hardware curve. I was mainly talking about HTC phones from roughly 2004 through 2008, when there were still people crazy enough to think that single-core smartphones (as in, a single CPU controlling everything from the OS to the phone itself) were viable, let alone a good idea. Anyone remember the useless, crippled super low-end Windows Mobile 6 "smartphones" that lacked t

              • I never had those crippled WinMo phones without touchscreens, but before the HD2 that I currently use, I used to own HTC Wallaby, Himalaya, Blue Angel, Universal, Athena and Blackstone, so I went through pretty much all Windows Mobile versions from 2002 to 6.5, mostly using custom ROMs from xda-developers. I have also disassembled a few Himalayas and Universals and I am pretty sure that there were some DSPs on the motherboard.

      • by goruka (1721094)
        Only in the US you can patent duct taping long filenames into a crappy filesystem by sticking many short filenames together and using a special character not allowed in the original filesystem as delimiter. There is nothing innovative about it and the only reason there isn't much prior art is because any other sane company would simply just replace the filesystem for a better one that supports long filenames natively. On top of that, Microsoft used it's monopoly power (for which they were convicted) to make
      • by gmack (197796)

        Invented? You mean copied from CP/M. Dos V2 added Unix style directories. The only reason anyone uses VFAT is because it is the only filesystem that windows can read that is both properly documented and simple to implement.

        It's a tax on being compatible with Windows.

        • Invented? You mean copied from CP/M.

          There were a lot of similarities in the way that you accessed files between DOS and CP/M (drive letters, 8.3 filenames), but the actual FAT file system was not the same as CP/M's.

          In fact, that was one of the advantages of MS-DOS over CP/M - the standardized disk format. The old CP/M systems made by the different vendors could not read each other's disks because they had their own customization of the file system. Disk interoperability was one of the reasons that DOS won in the end.

      • what are you talking about? that patent has been effectively nullified. http://lwn.net/Articles/338981/ [lwn.net]

    • Look at what Apple & Samsung fought over in Europe with the Galaxy Tab. Samsung LOST when it was pretty clear it was obvious and had a ton of prior art. Who's to say Microsoft doesn't hold something like that? It could be a multi-input touch screen or could be tied in with something from the Zune. Who knows?

      Honestly, I'm sure the cost/benefit analysis is why it happen this way. Assuming Samsung's lawyers evaluated Microsoft's patents and think they are bunk, it's still cheaper to pay microsoft X amount

    • More to the point: They have patents on something it does, and they are valid enough that the companies are willing to pay the asking price. It may be the the patents are quite valid, or it may be that they are on the fence, but the price is low enough. Sometimes it is worth it for companies to just pay.

  • by Howitzer86 (964585) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:26AM (#37540288)
    Linux now officially belongs to Microsoft. Pay up.
  • Modus Operandi (Score:5, Insightful)

    by deweyhewson (1323623) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @11:27AM (#37540302)

    This is nothing more than a legalized protection racket.

    Microsoft has made claims for years to own the patents on various aspects of Linux (which Android is built on), making only vague references and never specifying what exactly it owns. It then uses this to strongarm companies using Linux into paying them royalties.

    The best part is that, unlike illegal protection rackets, this one is entirely supported by the broken patent (and legal) system we have today.

    • Don't you think a company as big as Samsung (US$ 294.5 billion in total assets, almost 3x Microsoft's) couldn't fight Microsoft in court if these claims weren't substantial? Do you honestly thing MS went to Samsung and said "We have some patents you're infringing. We're not going to tell you what they are but they're really good." and Samsung just rolled over? That makes zero business sense.

      No. Most likely Samsung knows exactly what they're dealing with, decided it would be more expensive to fight in court

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Samsung also sells Microsoft-running devices.

        "Would be a shame if you didn't get the same 'discount' on your Microsoft OS licenses that all your competitors do"...

        • by kirkb (158552)

          I've got no mod points, but you're exactly right. The biggest guys to cave in to MS's extortion are WinPhone partners: HTC, Samsung.

      • by tobiasly (524456)

        No. Most likely Samsung knows exactly what they're dealing with, decided it would be more expensive to fight in court and they'd probably lose anyway, so they made a deal.

        How can you say that when you have no clue what the terms of the deal were? Maybe the monetary aspect is negligible and it's a cross-license deal that keeps Samsung from also suing Microsoft as they're doing with Apple. Samsung's patent portfolio is also very formidable. Maybe MS is more interested in the PR victory this represents as a boost to WinMo at Android's expense.

        • by DinDaddy (1168147)

          All these hardware mfrs will be competing with Apple, who have their own hardware and OS. MS wants them to buy its OS, not use the free one. The hardware mfrs are more likely to use the free one to compete with Apple better on price. MS is applying leverage to make sure it is NOT cheaper to use the free one, so they have a hope of selling theirs. They don't want to depend solely on Nokia to compete with Apple.

      • by Yvanhoe (564877)
        Well, maybe Samsung considered that indeed the patent laws would bite them hard if they fought MS patents. The fact that it is legal doesn't make it any less of a immoral racketing scheme. These laws need to go away.
  • So shortly the wife and I will need 21st century phones. And apparently the only phone not involving payments to MS is the iphone. I refuse to buy an Samsung or HTC phone now and pay extortion even though I'd prefer Android.
    • by Jeng (926980)

      Your idealism is idiotic.

      Get the best phone that meets your needs.

      Yes HTC does pay MS $5 for every Android phone they produce, but it is only $5, get over it.

      Without Android you are forced to go with Apple who is suing the crap out of everyone. Or a MS mobile based phone which well you hate MS so why would you do that? Then there is Nokia with Symbian for a little while longer before they go full on MS, so you can guess that getting support for Symbian is going to suck down the road.

      Or, you could go with

    • Do you also refuse to do business with any company that runs Windows on their office machines?

      Because, you know, some of your money also goes to MS if you do that.

    • Wow! You didn't even read the summary!

      Motorola Mobility (now owned by Google) is also not paying up, and counter-suing for MS's infringements of their patents on WP7 (not that they can recover very much from MS, it's not like the infringing WP7/WP7.5 is harming anyone right now -- except Microsoft).

  • Microsoft invented the file system used by many Android-powered devices to store data on SD cards, including a major enhancement released in 1995 that allowed file names to exceed the 8.3 limitation of early versions of this file system. This enhancement, commonly called "VFAT", is patented.
    --

    • by IgnoramusMaximus (692000) on Wednesday September 28, 2011 @12:14PM (#37540956)

      Microsoft invented...

      No, they did not. There are very, very few real inventions that can be attributed to Microsoft. This is not one of them. VFAT is an "invention" in the same vain as a janitor is "inventing clean" via an application of a mop and a bucket of soapy water to a floor. The term, now apparently forgotten, that once used to describe why such things are not patentable is "an obvious application of the art"

      So, as many people pointed out thousands of times:

      • 1. FAT is a copy of the earlier CP/M file system mixed with some bastard, half-assed ports of some features of UNIX file systems of the time.
      • 2. VFAT is an "obvious application of the art" and any patents on it are pure insanity that violates even the most basic premise of the whole idea of patents. But insane is what the US Patent system has become.
      • 3. The very idea of patenting software is another form of demonstrable mental retardation, a part of larger, even more dangerous to the progress of civilization and personal liberties, raving lunacy called "intellectual property".
      • by mgiuca (1040724)

        It's worse than that. VFAT (FAT with long file names) is not "obvious" in the sense that a "swipe to unlock" is obvious or a linked list. It's actually quite complicated and something that even an expert in the field wouldn't be able to come up with on their own. As Wikipedia explains [wikipedia.org], if you were to come up with all of this on your own, you would have to decide that you are going to repurpose directory entries, having N directory entries before the actual file's entry forming a linked list containing 13 ch

  • What the article fails to mention is that Microsoft and Samsung came to a cross-licensing agreement. Microsoft isn't extorting Samsung like some replies above like to believe. In the deal, Microsoft is also licensing some patents from Samsung as well. It's just not made transparent.
  • Is Android really using FAT?

    The only reason I can think of to use FAT on a device is because you'll sooner or later need to put the SD card into a Windows computer and it won't be able to access it. This makes some sense for SD cards and USB sticks, but Android devices are so good at using Wifi for file transfer (ftp apps, dropbox, http, email, many many options..)

    I can hardly imagine really _needing_ to take the SD card out of my tablet and physically inserting it into my desktop computer. So why not jus

    • by tycoex (1832784)

      Because a lot of people are stupid and won't understand why their "sd card is broken" when they plug it into their windows laptops.

  • Not that i am approving of all these patent lawsuits, i hope that Google finds a small nugget of gold and teaches Microsoft a lesson and pounds them with it until they bleed. Motorola was around long before bill gates was even born and should have a portfolio to trump anyone in the communications business.

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