While the big news of the day is Apple suing Amazon for violation of their (in my totally non-legal opinion) overly broad claims to owner ship of the term “App Store,” there’s another heady tech lawsuit hitting the feeds this evening: Microsoft has just filed a patent lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, accusing the company of infringement through their Android-based Nook e-reader.
What’s this all about? If you recall, early last year, Microsoft licensed some of their key smartphone patents to HTC, who was sued by Apple a month or so previously for allegedly violating their patents with HTC’s line of Android phones. That helped protect HTC, and Microsoft came to similar agreements with other Android device makers.
You know who didn’t pay up when Microsoft approached them, though? Barnes & Noble, whose latest Nook e-reader is essentially a budget, touchscreen Android tablet. So they’re suing.
“Companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights,” said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft’s deputy general counsel for IP and licensign said. ” To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers.”
“We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec,” he said. “Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market.”
Yup. Foxconn’s also in trouble for violating Microsoft’s patents, apparently. Of course, Foxconn has a powerful ally in Apple, which has a sizable patent portfolio of its own to boast about.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all shakes out, as the various mobile device makers flex their patent portfolios in front of each other with the utmost braggadocio. These are the opening blows of the mobile patent wars. Will the relative small fry of the Nook be the first fatality?