Opinion: Microsoft has signed yet another ‘bogus’ patent deal with Taiwan’s Foxconn, the world’s lagest electronics maker. In a Microsoft blog the company claimed, “Microsoft Corp. and Hon Hai, the parent company of Foxconn, signed a worldwide patent licensing agreement that provides broad coverage under Microsoft’s patent portfolio for devices running the Android and Chrome OS, including smartphones, tablets and televisions.”
Foxconn seems to have chosen the ‘easy’ path of simply paying up a ‘tiny’ fee to Microsoft instead of going to the court. There is no doubt that Microsoft’s claims that Android infringes upon it’s patents are bogus as we have already seen in the B&N case where the company was taken to the court and then fearing that the case will expose Microsoft, the Windows maker surprisingly settled outside the court and ‘paid’ a heavy fee to B&N in the name of an alliance.
Can we know how much is overly excited Microsoft getting per Android/Chrome unit and which patents are being violated?
Microsoft’ blog further says:
While the contents of the agreement are confidential, the parties indicate that Microsoft will receive royalties from Hon Hai under the agreement. Hon Hai joins a growing list of contract manufacturing and original design manufacturing companies with Android and Chrome patent licenses.
Since Microsoft signs an NDA we never get to see which ‘patents’ is Android violating, it could be tiny things like FAT partition. Since we also don’t know how much Microsoft gets per device, it could be few pennies per device.
Even if the sites like The Verge claim that “Android is growing into a wonderful source of revenue… for Microsoft” we actually don’t know how much is Microsoft getting from Android.
These deals are less about money and more about PR stunts, a game Microsoft loves to play.
Microsoft, if you are really making any money from Android, why don’t you disclose how much are you charging per Android device and which patents do Android and Chrome violate. Until then it’s just bogus and the reason of these ‘successful’ deals is that companies like Foxconn chose it cheaper to throw a bone at the dog than to chase it.
Only company that’s throwing the keyword Android and Chrome in such agreements is Microsoft. Even in the statement that was published on Microsoft blog, Samuel Fu, director of the Intellectual Property Department at Hon Hai (the parent company of Foxconn) did not mention Android or Chrome. He made a generic statement.
“Hon Hai is the world’s largest contract electronics manufacturer that holds more than 54,000 patents worldwide. We recognize and respect the importance of international efforts that seek to protect intellectual property. The licensing agreement with Microsoft represents those efforts and our continued support of international trade agreements that facilitate implementation of effective patent protection.”
No mention of Android and Chrome? Not surprising.
Licensing is a normal practice
At the same time licensing is a normal practice in the market and Microsoft itself is a licensee of thousands of technologies developed by others. It’s just that the declining abusive and monopolistic force of the past is now using such deals as a PR stunt, which is unfortunately not helping the company. Gone are the days when Microsoft could crush competitors through unethical business practices (though they are still trying). Now, when we have strong competitors like Google, Apple, Mozilla – Microsoft is turning out to be a company with a huge pile of failed products – from Windows 8 to Bing to Windows Phones.