Barnes & Noble Wants Microsoft's Patents Probed

Facing a February trial stemming around Microsoft's Android patent claims, Barnes & Noble alleges that Microsoft is attempting to raise its rivals' costs by using "trivial and outmoded patents" in order to drive out competition and to deter innovation in mobile devices. The book retailer is now asking U.S. regulators to investigate whether Microsoft is trying to monopolize the mobile sector by demanding Android-related patent royalties.

"Microsoft is embarking on a campaign of asserting trivial and outmoded patents against manufacturers of Android devices," Barnes & Noble said in an Oct. 17 letter to Gene Kimmelman, the Justice Department’s chief counsel for competition policy.

The upcoming trial slated for February 2012 is based on accusations presented by Microsoft that claim Barnes & Noble infringes on five patents. Microsoft previously filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission, seeking to block imports of the NOOK readers. Microsoft insists that the underlying NOOK OS -- naturally Google's Android -- uses its patented inventions. Microsoft has already landed licensing deals with HTC and Samsung.

"All modern operating systems include many patented technologies," Microsoft said in a statement. "Microsoft has taken licenses to patents for Windows and we make our patents available on reasonable terms for other operating systems, like Android. We would be pleased to extend a license to Barnes & Noble."

Barnes & Noble said that part of Microsoft's tactics to to raise rivals’ costs included the participation in a group of companies to buy Novell patents. Microsoft has also reportedly participated in a three-way licensing agreement with Nokia and Mosaid Technologies. These two specific actions are supposedly intended to "prevent Android- based devices from taking away sales of Microsoft’s Windows operating system."

Although actual figures were not provided, Barnes & Noble said that Microsoft is demanding the same amount in patent fees that the Redmond company charges users of its Windows Phone platform.

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  • Ugh! More patent news? I didn't want to do this but....

    "Yo dawg, I heard you like patents, so we put a patent in yo patent so you can patent while you patent!"
  • Although what Microsoft is doing is downright anticompetitive, I'm afraid it is a common practice for large companies to try and cripple competitors (they don't want to outright crush them, because the government might intervene).
  • Those few cent royalties add up when you're paying 100 different ones for a single device.