Microsoft, Huawei In Talks Over Android Patents

An agreement between the two would be the latest in a string of patent agreements signed by mobile device developers with Microsoft, which claims a number of patents related to technology in Google's Android operating system.

The BBC on Monday quoted Victor Xu, chief marketing officer for Huawei Device, as saying that such discussions are in progress.

The BBC also wrote that Huawei has picked the U.K. as its launch point for an international roll-out of smart mobile devices and tablet PCs, an that a U.S. launch of the products is expected in 2012.

Should Huawei and Microsoft come to terms over a licensing agreement over Microsoft's Android-related patents, it would bring Huawei, one of the world's largest telecom equipment and mobile device manufacturers, in line with a number of its peers.

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Huawei executives did not respond to requests for more information in time for this article.

Microsoft executives declined to discuss possible negotiations with Huawei.

However, the company, in a statement attributed to a spokesperson, wrote, "While we won’t comment on the status of our confidential patent licensing discussions with other companies, we are very pleased with the strong momentum of our Android licensing program, which to date includes 10 signed agreements with companies that are leading Android device manufacturers."

A Microsoft spokesperson on Tuesday e-mailed CRN to say the company on October 23 signed its ninth Android licensing agreement in the last four months, and its tenth Android agreement to date, with Taiwan-based Compal. As a result, manufacturers of over half of all Android devices have now entered into patent license agreements with Microsoft, the spokesperson wrote.

Other patent licensing agreement signers include Samsung, which in September announced a patent portfolio cross-licensing deal under which Samsung will pay Microsoft a royalty for every Android-based tablet and smartphone.

Microsoft in April of 2010 also signed a patent cross-licensing deal with HTC that covers its line of Android devices.

Google makes Android available to manufacturers for free. In September, in a statement sent to the TechCrunch Website, Google criticized the Samsung-Microsoft deal, saying that Microsoft is "resorting to legal measures to extort profit from others' achievements and hinder the pace of innovation."

Patent ownership and licensing rights have become a major issue in the mobile device market as it continues to expand at the expense of the traditional PC market.

For instance, Intel, Samsung, Ericsson, and HTC are among several companies considering a possible bid for a huge portfolio of InterDigital patents, much of which is related to high-speed mobile phone networks and devices.

That followed the successful July bid by a consortium including Apple, Microsoft, EMC, Research In Motion, Sony, and Ericsson who pay $4.5 billion in cash for a portfolio of over 6,000 patents owned by Nortel Networks.

The consortium beat Google after an intensive bid process that left Google concerned that the winning consortium would use the Nortel patent portfolio to attack its Android-based mobile device technology.

Rick Whiting contributed to this article.