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Microsoft licences patents for HTC’s Android phones, adds an additional dose of confusion

Sure, we all know that Apple is suing HTC over alleged patent infringements found in the handset maker’s Android-powered devices, but Microsoft suddenly joins the fray by announcing that they have struck a licensing agreement with HTC over its Android phones. What’s going on here?

Read on to find out more.

Patent disputes can be some of the most complex things ever, and apparently, Microsoft saw fit to add additional confusion to the mix by announcing that it had struck a patent-licensing agreement with HTC over the use of its innovations in the handset maker’s lineup of Android-powered smartphones.

And unlike most patent disputes, where the list of infringing patents are usually well-publicized to the entire world for all to see, the deal between Microsoft and HTC has been a complete hush-hush affair, with neither party releasing any detail about exactly what patents were contested.

The bigger question, however, has to do with Microsoft’s interest in Android: given that both Windows Mobile and Android compete against each other in the mobile space, the deal between Microsoft and HTC sounds rather unusual, for the lack of a better word. For one, Microsoft has totally zero involvement in Google’s Android, thus making it seem that the Redmond company has apparently found a way to make some legal money off Android’s growing success without having to do much.

But what is perhaps more interesting is that such a deal between Microsoft and HTC seems to be mutually beneficial; not only does Microsoft receive legal fess for its patents, the move also helps HTC by shielding it from any potential legal conflict between Microsoft and Google. We’re not so sure how this is supposed to work, but apparently, by agreeing to license Microsoft’s patents for use in its Android phones, Microsoft will deem that the handset maker is well within its right to use such technologies for both its Android and Windows Mobile smartphones as opposed to other Android smartphone makers who have not signed similar deals with Microsoft, thus leaving them open for litigation while HTC is blissfully kept out of the crossfire.

Some have also speculated that such a deal is actually meant to be a behind-the-scene form of assistance to Google as well: now that HTC has the right to make use of Microsoft’s patents in its products, the handset maker might have a little more clout when it comes to the litigation table against Apple. Again, we’re not entirely sure how this is supposed to work, but it seems that the patents which HTC has licensed from Microsoft may be directly related to those which Apple is currently suing HTC over, thus Apple cannot claim infringement over those patents which Microsoft holds.

This would indirectly protect Google, as the search giant has no patents to protect itself in this area, and is strongly believed that Apple’s claim against HTC is akin to a proxy war between itself and Google’s Android. If this is true, it would probably go down in history as a significant event: Microsoft helping Google out in a time of uncertainty.

And if that sounds too confusing for you, don’t fret: we are just as baffled as you are about this surprising turn of events. But until more information is released about the patent licensing agreement between Microsoft and HTC, it’s inevitable that speculations of such nature will persist.

Source: TechRadar UK, Ars Technica, CNet

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