Microsoft has been grumbling for months about Google's Android OS infringing on its patents, but this is no ordinary fear, uncertainty and doubt campaign. With its Friday filing of a patent infringement lawsuit against Motorola, Microsoft is showing its willingness to back up these claims.
Microsoft's suit, filed with the International Trade Commission and in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington, alleges that Motorola's Android smartphones infringe on nine of Microsoft's patents, which cover functions such as synchronizing e-mail, calendars and contacts, scheduling meetings, and notifying applications of changes in signal strength and battery power.
As it usually does when talking about its shadowy collection of Linux patents, Microsoft pointed to its obligation to protect its patent portfolio investments.
"We have a responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year in bringing innovative software products and services to market," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing, in a statement. "Motorola needs to stop its infringement of our patented inventions in its Android smartphones."
Microsoft in April signed a patent cross-licensing deal with HTC that covers its line of Android devices. Soon after, Microsoft acknowledged that was talking with other device manufacturers about its concerns over patent infringement in their Android smartphones.
Next: Why Companies Usually SurrenderLike many companies that have found themselves in Microsoft's legal crosshairs, HTC probably did the math and realized that right or wrong, settling with Microsoft would be far less expensive than fighting it in court.
Microsoft isn't the only company that sees Android as a big old hunk of infringement: Apple sued HTC earlier this year for patent infringement in Android, and Oracle sued Google on the ground that Android infringes on its Java patents.
Microsoft has never revealed specifics about its Linux patents, and its patent cross licensing agreements with other companies are typically cloaked in non-disclosure agreements. This is one reason why companies that sculpt their own Linux implementations keep running into legal problems with Microsoft.
"I'd be really surprised if Motorola or Google implemented the 'invention' in question after reading Microsoft's patents -- it's far more likely that it was an obvious implementation decision and they hit a patent landmine," said John Locke, principal consultant at Freelock Computing, a Seattle-based open-source consultancy.
Of course, Motorola is no mom-and-pop shop, and it might be willing to fight Microsoft's claims. Motorola, in a statement sent to media outlets Friday, said it had yet to see Microsoft's complaint and was unable to comment.
Next: Motorola's official statement
However, Motorola spokeswoman Jennifer Erickson told the Associated Press the company believes its own patent portfolio can withstand Microsoft's legal challenge.
"Motorola has a leading intellectual property portfolio, one of the strongest in the industry, and we will vigorously defend ourself in this matter," Erickson told the AP.