Microsoft claims that most Android phones infringe on multiple patents, but has never revealed what those patents are. The company could make as much as a billion dollars a year on Android-related patents and wants to keep them secret, but the Chinese government revealed a list of more than 300 Microsoft patents and applications. These are from mobile phone technologies and include 127 patents that Microsoft says Android infringes upon.
It’s strange that Microsoft didn’t want to reveal these patents themselves, but there might be a reason for this. There’s a big advantage to not revealing exactly what patents you may need to ultimately use in a lawsuit. So the company is trying to collect royalty payments on pretty much every Android device in the world and they’re well on their way towards accomplishing this goal. If they get into a legal negotiation it’s best for them to maybe show some patents or maybe even no patents at all and say “we have hundreds of them, but you’ll only find out what they are if you confront us in the courtroom.” They’re not giving out lists with all of them because that might give lawyers time to strategize. Basically it’s just a legal strategy to not show any more than you need to until you actually have to go to court.
This seems to be similar to the Apple strategy. These infringing technologies are in Android and yet Microsoft tends to extract licensing fees from the hardware makers. The company has never sued Google directly even though they are the makers of Android. A lot of the hardware makers are paying Microsoft so that’s definitely not an infringement. But at the end of the day this hasn’t really been proved. This is just Microsoft approaching these companies, most of which it already has a relationship with on some level. These companies agree after the negotiations to pay a licensing fee rather than go to court. On the other hand they do have an advantage in the negotiations because Microsoft didn’t want to reveal the patents. Now that they’re out in the open I would guess that Microsoft would have more leeway to negotiate with these companies because now they don’t mind going to court.
The list is out so lawyers on the others side of the court battle would certainly want to take a look at this and that would be very advantageous to them. But ultimately the defendants would have to spend a few millions of dollars just to defend the patents and it’s uncertain if any of the companies are willing to do that. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out how the situation develops so stay tuned.