Last month, Microsoft took bookseller Barnes &  Noble, the company responsible for the Nook and Nook Color, to court over some patents infringed because B&N used the Android operating system in the Nook and Nook Color. This is definitely nothing new in the world of mobile devices. It happens all the time, especially with companies like Apple and Microsoft trying to take complete dominance of every arena they enter. That's not the big story here. The big story is the extremely, and I mean EXTREMELY douche-tastic way Microsoft is trying to attack Android with these patents.

One of Android's biggest advantages (besides being vastly superior, of course) is that it costs exactly nothing. A free operating system is much more enticing than one that you have to pay to use, just like anything else. It stands to reason, then, that companies like Microsoft, who charge for licensing of their operating system, would want to cripple the free competition in any way they can. Microsoft found a great way to do this and, BONUS! - they didn't actually have to improve their product at all.

When Microsoft approached Barnes & Noble, they stated that Android infringed on 6 Microsoft patents but wouldn't go into further detail without B&N signing a non-disclosure agreement. Like a boss, B&N gave them the finger (not really, but that would've been cool) because "the patents are a matter of public record." Nice! Microsoft then threatened to shut down Barnes & Noble's ability to use Android altogether. At this point, Microsoft revealed the licensing costs for those six patents. Quothe Barnes & Noble:

On information and belief, the license fees demanded by Microsoft are higher than what Microsoft charges for a license to its entire operating system designed for mobile devices, Windows Phone 7.

I'll let you read that over a couple more times to let it sink in. Go ahead, I'll wait.

Now, hopefully, you've changed your pants, taken a shower, and had a beer and you're ready to read more. In addition to the fact that Microsoft gets more because you have Android than they would if you were running Windows Phone 7, Microsoft asked for more than double THAT number because the Nook Color is closer to a full computing device. I just ran out of "WTF"s.

Microsoft typically get's anywhere from $10-$15 for each Windows Phone 7 device. If they're charging more than that for patent licensing in Android, let's say, $20, and wanted to more than double THAT for the Nook color, we're sitting at a (purely theoretical, not fact-based, "I just made this up to impress you with math") price of $40-$45. Microsoft would make more money from my Nook Color purchase than if I somehow started thinking Windows Phone 7 was a viable competitor in the mobile space. That is some crappy crap.

This is all in an attempt by Microsoft to make Android, the free alternative, cost money. Their idea here is that, if the people who make Android won't charge for it, we will. Barnes & Noble are hip to Microsoft's game, though, and, unlike me, are all smart from their book-readin' and stuff-learnin'. They replied to Microsoft's lawsuit with a shiny new lawsuit of their own: "Misusing Patents to Further an Anticompetive Scheme Against Android." Here's a clip of what Barnes & Noble had to say:

DISCLAIMER: Android Police is not responsible if you start systematically destroying all Windows devices you encounter in a fit of rage after reading this.

...Microsoft has asserted patents that extend only to arbitrary, outmoded, or non-essential design features, but uses these patents to demand that every manufacturer of an Android-based mobile device take a license from Microsoft and pay exorbitant licensing fees or face protracted and expensive patent infringement litigation. The asserted patents do not have a lawful scope sufficient to control the AndroidTM Operating System as Microsoft is attempting to do, and Microsoft’s misuse of these patents directly harms both competition for and consumers of all eReaders, smartphones, tablet computers and other mobile electronic devices....

3. Microsoft did not invent, research, develop, or make available to the public mobile devices employing the AndroidTM Operating System and other open source operating systems, but nevertheless seeks to dominate something it did not invent. On information and belief, Microsoft intends to take and has taken definite steps towards making competing operating systems such as the AndroidTM Operating System unusable and unattractive to both consumers and device manufacturers through exorbitant license fees and absurd licensing restrictions that bear no relation to the scope and subject matter of its own patents....

9. On information and belief, as part of Microsoft’s recently announced agreement with Nokia to replace Nokia’s Symbian operating system with Microsoft’s own mobile device operating system, Microsoft and Nokia discussed and apparently agreed upon a strategy for coordinated offensive use of their patents. Indeed, in videotaped remarks made two days after the Microsoft-Nokia agreement was announced, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop confirmed that Microsoft and Nokia had discussed how their combined intellectual property portfolio is “remarkably strong” and that Microsoft and Nokia intended to use this combined portfolio both defensively and offensively. This type of horizontal agreement between holders of significant patent portfolios is per se illegal under the antitrust laws, threatens competition for mobile device operating systems and is further evidence of Microsoft’s efforts to dominate and control Android and other open source operating systems.

So there you have it. Microsoft, in "protecting its intellectual property", has stated that the entire operating system it designed is worth less than six half-assed patents in another system. The moral of the story is this, boys and girls: If you want to make money, don't improve your product. Simply use underhanded tactics to make your superior competitor more expensive.

If anyone needs me, I'll be in the back downloading Ubuntu.

Sources: Business Insider, Groklaw

Brad Ganley
An Android power user, Brad consumes most of his free time with unhealthy amounts of cell phones and cell phone related things when he isn't playing with his son. Brad is also an avid movie-watcher and tea-drinker.
  • http://trueacu.com acupunc

    Ubuntu. . . go with #! (CrunchBang)

    Read this same info a couple days ago. . . what can you say? Soulless companies will always bee greedy bastards!

  • MicroNix

    Microsoft is falling on so many fronts they are desperate now. They're bleeding cash on BING, they are losing PC OS sales due to tablets, every tech article you read talks about the "post-PC" era and their mobile phone OS completely sucks.

    • blah

      I am not sticking up in anyway for them, but I don't think they are bleeding, Yeah pc sales being down will eventually hurt them if things do not change. They have reached 30% market share on Bing, but who knows how much they have spent marketing it vs what they are bringing in for ad revenue. 30% is pretty impressive though. Q3 they posted like a 30% increase in profit. With the number of Win7 licenses they are selling, I don't see MS hurting anytime soon. just my opinion though, I am no expert.

    • Jon Garrett

      maybe they should stick to Desktop OS and leave the mobile stuff to the people who know what they're doing.

      Microsoft had a golden opportunity from the late 90's when they had Windows CE running on handheld devices like the Compaq iPaq and HP Jordana.

      toady MS is like an old aging lion.

  • blah

    kaching! I give them enough money already.This is def a douche move,ironic that their OS is worth less than 6 pieces of Andoird. bwahahahahaha

  • Phil

    This might very well be the last patent troll move MS makes on Linux. They've been dancing around suing companies that most likely didn't have the resources to take them to court. This time B&N has stepped up. Them stating that they won't sign this nondisclosure agreement says it all. MS forces every company to sign this agreement because they don't want anyone to know the specific patents so that either 1. they will be contested or 2. the Linux community will remove the offending code. Without knowing they can continue the FUD of making companies think they have run afoul of Windows. Or honestly they may very well admit they have nothing once the NDA is signed and require the company to go along with the act that they offended and are paying fees. If this goes to court it would seem the patents would have to come out and the gig would be up.

  • http://twitter.com/vinod_c Vinod

    IP is IP and has to be respected. MSFT makes $ on androids sold and $GOOG makes nothing apart from questionable mobile AD revenues. I hear some vendors have android phones using Bing. If $GOOG doesn't make enough on android, the android cookie will crumble a few years into the smartphone market which is still in infancy. NOK has an unparalleled marketing network internationally and that combined MSFT resources will create a global champion. The fun part is MSFT doesnt even need any of these consumer businesses- Xbox, phone, or even PCs to consumers when 83% of revenue comes from enterprise. In short, make not mistake, MSFT will prevail!

    • blah

      This will be a big case for MS if they loose they stand to loose more than just legal fees. Google loses nothing since they are not being sued. It will be interesting to see how the court responds to the anti competition suit B&N has filed. As we all know MS has been sued and lost countless times in the past for all kinds of "anti competitive schemes". This most definitely will be a fun one to watch.

    • Oz

      Don’t be too proud of this legal terror Microsoft's constructed. The ability to sue Barnes and Noble is insignificant next to the power of Android.

  • Viscerebral

    This is why I don't own a single licensed piece of MS software. Never have, never will.

  • Viscerebral

    BTW, vinod must have the good drugs. MS is irrelevant in the consumer segment (xbox aside) and will soon see the dwindling share of that segment go the way of Ma Bell and newspapers. As more graphically oriented, user friendly versions of 'nix (android included) take hold on tabs and net books, with apps & progs that eat into corporate "office x.xx" activations, you will see MS start to become more desperate.
    As far as nokia goes, notice that their boutique phones are generally only available in europe? They have an inability to play nice with US carriers and the mkt share here shows. They are a day late and a dollar short, hitching a ride with MS is like tying off to a falling anchor.

    • http://twitter.com/#!/vinod_c Vinod

      At a meager ~17% of revenue MSFT may pretty well blow up their consumer businesses. But Bings well & Entertainment division is raking $

      There are indications that tables are a passing fad. If anything Windows on SoC will bring a familiarity to this market.

      A 31% rise in recent quarter profit was driven by strong sales MS Office. There are no indications of inferior tabs encroaching into corporations. iPad runs some version of MS office as well.

      A stellar feature phone distribution network makes NOK a juggernaut in the emerging markets, which would be the global driver for smartphone growth (Not a consumer in a country which is in decline)

      • http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/04/29/wtf-microsoft-sues-barnes-noble-reminds-us-why-ms-is-the-devil/ Fat Albert

        Apparently you've never used a Nokia phone. They suck. And blow. At the same time.

      • Josh

        @Vinod - "There are indications that tables are a passing fad." LOL, then on what are you going to place your shiny new Windows 8 PC in the future? On a serious note, any evidence to back-up tablets being a passing fad?

  • Dhimbak

    It's simple and straight. MS is the owner of the patents. They spend up to 15% of their revenue on R&D. Please don't tell me MS doesn't invent...patents are for inventions and the fact that MS owns many of them. Instead of whining, why not use another technology that doesn't depend on MS owned patents.
    MS months before already warned that android is not REALLY comes as free quoting the licensing fees on patents used by android.
    Everyone took it lightly or ignored and now crying out loud... what a shame. B&N will have to pay the price and so as all others who do the same. A patent is a patent, and its stupid of B&N to compare it with that of monopoly...

    • Brad

      nice try, Steve Ballmer.

    • blah

      No one ever stated MS doesn't invent. They pump a crapload into R&D, but the question remains to be seen if these patent claims they are making are even relevant. To make a company sign a NDA to let them know what patents they are violating is very "shady" behavior. If they lose they could lose patent protection on these patents. If that happens they lose the little leverage they had. To add insult to injury, they put a value on 6 parts of the Android OS that exceeds the cost of their own OS. That alone is a douche move with the sole purpose to stifle competition.

  • Mark

    Typical knee jerk reaction from an Android fan. A patent is just that, a patent. MS owns it. B&N shouldn't have infringed on it. Pay up B&N. Stop being little tossers.

    • blah

      Do you know how patent suits work?

    • Brad Ganley

      Right. I'm sure you're aware, then, that patents get overthrown on an almost alarmingly regular basis if it is ruled that the patented function is too generalized or otherwise unreasonable, right? I would like to direct your attention to this patent for CONTROLLING ANY MOVING OBJECT ON ANY SORT OF SCREEN: http://bit.ly/kDsY1B

      Where are this man's royalties from Microsoft?

    • blah

      MS usually doesn't fare too well in anti-competitive suits, for some reason they have this reputation of "hatching anti-competitive schemes" that carries over into their lawsuits. I still laugh at the amount of money MS had to pay the EU for their anti competitive suit, not millions...billions. When you crash you might as well burn too I guess.

      • Peter

        I wouldn't laugh too loud as Google is facing the same European lawsuit that Microsoft once faced (and lost)

  • Viscerebral

    As it has yet to be ajudicated, it is neither simple nor straight. Right now it is simply "he said, she said". Don't get me wrong,I firmly hold patent/contract law to be the guardian of property ownership rights here in the US, and in turn that is the cornerstone of liberty. If MS is found to be agrieved,so be it. However, MS has a history of "liberating" and absorbing the tech created by others through IP bullying or even outright theft from those too small to oppose them in court, and it is nigh well time that some entity puts the proverbial foot up the MS ass.

    • blah

      +1 great comment

      • Viscerebral

        Thx, seems there is a whole generation that knows nothing of the genisis of MS and how dirty they were/are. These douchebags make zuckerberg look like a saint.

        • Brad Ganley

          That first comment coupled with the awesomeness of this second comment lead me to believe that your ass has a terminal case of BAD.

  • No Fan of MST or Lawyers

    Microsoft makes unstable software!! End of story... They were in the right place at the right time back in 1980, but it's over. I remember how outraged I was in the early 2000's to learn that in a Citrix sale Microsoft collected more revenue than Citrix did with all their CAL's, etc. What a joke... Before responding people please read the public 50-page well articulated response that BN made this week to the half ass 9-page POS that Mst submitted on 3/21 as their suit against BN. Microsoft and their attorney's are so lazy it's not even funny. What the heck are they doing in Redman??? Riding skateboards and smoking pot? The computing world has moved on Microsoft lets face it... That's why Microsoft stock has been dead money for 10-years. Linux, Android, Web/OS & Gluster has passed you by.

  • Viscerebral

    @ brad
    Is this where I get banhammered for fessing up to owning a winbox for gaming?

    • Brad Ganley

      If you can keep a secret....*i wrote this article in windows live writer* sshhhhhhhhhh

      It doesn't count as long as you don't ENJOY windows.

      • Viscerebral

        I haven't had that problem for a good 15 years. Its been all downhill since before WinME

  • KUser

    MS is not the devil. If the patents in question are really violated by B&N. B&N is the devil. And BTW open source does not mean you can violate IP.

    • Brad

      The "devil" part isn't that they own patents. I understand how that works. It comes from the idea that they're using these six patents to profit off of android instead of making windows phone 7 a more relevant, viable operating system.

  • derek

    I wish there were more facts in this article. Would be real journalism if you figured out what the patents are.

    • Brad

      Trust me, I've tried to find out.

      • a1

        Ugh, it wasn't so hard :). B&N response contains list of patent they are sued upon. There is five patent at stake:

        1) patent for progressive document rendering (abstract for this patent is about first presenting text to user while images are still being downloaded)
        2) patent for progress indicator presentation inside browser/application display area
        3) patent for tabbar (well basically it covers grouping windows and switching between them by tabs)
        4) annotating document without changing it
        5) patent for controlling text selection with handles

        The above is of course simplified claims description of above patents claims.

  • cliffy

    This kind of behavior from Microsoft is despicable, but sadly, nothing new coming from them. In case anyone is interested in reading the full response from Barnes & Noble but doesn't know where to find it, here's a link to the PDF:

  • http://www.androidpolice.com/2011/04/29/wtf-microsoft-sues-barnes-noble-reminds-us-why-ms-is-the-devil/ Fat Albert

    Anyone notice how this lawsuit pops up right after the update to make the Nook a prominent contender is sent out? Could this timing have been any more calculated by Microsoft?

    Oh, an ereader made by a fading bookstore. Meh pass over it. 6 months later; Oh! A tablet-reader second in tablet sales only to the Ipad... while running android? Pull the ol' lawyers out fellas!

  • http://pinoydroid.net Pinoy Android

    Don't buy Windows based mobile phone!!!

  • Jim

    I will never ever buy any Microsoft products anymore...

    • Dhimbak

      Well, i understand what you mean, you may never buy, but that doesn't prevent you from USING it ;-)

  • Steve

    I didn't invent it, but as of today, I will start demanding licensing payments for all use of oxygen. Thank you for listening.

  • Googol

    Let's have that Chrome OS asap, please!

  • Siddalee

    Hey, I am planning on buying the B&N Nook Color after May 24th. Supposedly there is to be something new or a big change on the 24th so I want the latest version. However, if the Microsoft suit is forcing unwelcome changes in this product perhaps I should purchase the Nook Color before the 24th. Also prefer not to pay an extra $40 so Microsoft gets a cut.