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Although Microsoft has a licensing agreement that cover over 70 percent of all Android devices sold in the US, the exact nature of the patents utilised by the Android ecosystem wasn't divulged, until now. As part of the regulatory sign-off of Microsoft's Nokia acquisition, China's Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM) has published a list of 310 patents that highlight the technologies that Microsoft collects royalties on.

The Chinese agency found that 73 of the 310 patents were standard-essential, along with 127 patents that Microsoft claims are implemented in Android. The list also contains 110 non-standard essential patents along with the patents that Microsoft acquired during the Rockstar auction. MOFCOM launched the investigation to determine whether Microsoft would use its patent portfolio to gain an uncompetitive atmosphere following the closure of the Nokia deal.

It is estimated that the Microsoft nets around $1 to $2 billion in revenues from Android licensing agreements with several manufacturers, and that number is likely to grow by a large margin considering the growth of Android in emerging markets.

It is interesting that the list was discovered on the Chinese language version of MOFCOM, considering the English language site made no mention of the patent lists. Microsoft has come under criticism over the last few years for the way it handles patent litigation, which was highlighted in the Barnes & Noble case.

Microsoft has since been more forthcoming in revealing its patent portfolio, and has created a page that allows you to view and search all patents owned by the Redmond based organisation. However, the list does not indicate which particular patents are infringed by Android, which is why the list published by MOFCOM is significant.

To take a look at all the patents, click here to download the Word document.

Source: MOFCOM; Via: Ars Technica

 

Reader comments

Microsoft's secret list of Android patents revealed by Chinese government

67 Comments

Follow up questions:
1) What patents not know about, if any, and...
2) Which ones can be designed around to cut off the free-loading MSFT licensing gravy train?

Using Android and Google services correctly... you simply don't need 64GB. My 16GB Nexus is more than enough or if not, I could have gotten the 32GB.

ahhh...yes the cloud services argument...It does not hold water. We are not there yet either.

I have a 32 GB device and between that and dropbox and Drive, I am consistently out of space. I realize I am a minority but there is no reason to not have 64GB phones as the standard right now.

I agree. I drive truck all over the country so l'm constantly moving between cell towers and coverage areas. I have to carry my music on my phone if I want to play it while moving. Same for the podcasts I listen to. My Micro SD is at 20 gigs just with part of my music. The only way to fit it in RAM would be to uninstall all of my apps.

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I don't drive a truck, and I work in a major metropolis. But I work in a heavy duty concrete and steel structure that kills signal for all major carriers once you're more than 15-20 feet into it, and the only devices allowed on the wifi are work computers. So the cloud is insufficient for my needs and anyone else in a similar situation, which would include a lot of government workers, etc.

Right, because you have to be a truck driver to travel between coverage areas. I was on Verizon for years, and even their supposedly superior network was full of holes outside cities and medium to large towns.

The cloud is simply not a viable alternative to local storage. Coverage isn't there, bandwidth isn't there, cellular rates aren't there. Even if it all was, there's still a valid argument to keep most/large media files local as opposed to streaming them over and over and burdening the network. But I keep forgetting, this is a "screw everyone else as long as I have what I need" culture.

What a stupid statement. Let's just consider the scenario I had last week. I went away to Cape Verde where the wifi in the hotel is patchy at best. I want to listen to music on my phone and the wifi does not extend to my room or the pool area. Therefore I uploaded a lot of albums and compilations onto my phone. I also want to take loads of photos which I cannot upload to the cloud. I just about managed to make do with 16gb, however I was always aware about the limited amount of space on my phone which kind of ruined the enjoyment of using it.

On my tablet I uploaded around 30gb of movies onto my sd card and had quite a lot of space on my tablet for apps and music.

Please tell me 16gb was enough there.

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Simply avoiding a modest licencing fee is not a sufficient justification for negatively impacting the functionality of a product. If it was, virtually every product sold would be utterly crippled and useless.

Don't buy into this, or the security argument. The move away from local storage is all about forcing people to use cloud storage and, as a result, give providers access to yet more of your data.

What are you talking about? Everyone has unlimited data. Some have unlimited data plans with 2GB of data, some are unlimited data with 1GB of data. Carriers, You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

YES! I heard last year that Steve Wozniak doesn't like this move towards cloud storage. I knew then that I was already on the right side. I was offered some FREE when I paid for my Note 3 in January (actually two different ones). I declined (ala Butters Stotch).

SD cards don't have to be FAT32. Just format it ext3/4 and be done with it. It's all abstracted away via MTP now anyway. And if you want to use that in your computer, there are plenty of places to get ext3/4 drivers for Winblows and OS X.

free-loading gravy chain? I love Android as much as the next guy, but one major problem we seem to have as whole as human beings is this idea of doing things on our own. We are all building off of someone else's knowledge and as people in technology we should have a better grasp on our past. Instead of seeing only the company who's products we buy as the only one capable of doing anything, realize that whatever it is your using now is just a better version of something already invented.
With that said, when should someone stop getting paid for their invention?

Well said and spot on. We'd all do well, in every facet of life, to realize that everything we have is, in part, due to everyone that has come before us.

Most people who know better don't have a problem with patents in general. The problem is software patents that are frivolous and obvious to anyone who designs and writes code. Yes, one could say there's the hindsight is 20/20 mentality there. However, a surprising number of developers do come up with similar, obvious ways to do things and when they look at some of these patents they are appalled.
Now, having said that, I've not gone over the list that has been published, so I don't know if they fall into this category or not. Likely, some if not most do, otherwise I'm not so sure MS would have kept them secret so long.

I'm waiting for Google 5o buy black berry patients and see what goodies they can have :) at least their not as bad as Apple yuck

Do they make any money on WP at all? It's been ages since I've looked at any of MS's financial announcements, but I would think they must still be losing money on WP at this point.

They are still losing money, but like the Xbox as long as they keep throwing money at it, eventually they will start making some.

I certainly hope so. I actually like WP, and I'd love to see them gain some market share so that developers will start to give it the time of day.

Although if I see one more of those "Honestly" commercials, I'm going to find the nearest Win8 device and throw it out the window.

I am with you on that. Windows phone is nice and there is potential there. Since BlackBerry is all but dead, we need someone else to step up and drive competition. Hopefully WP is that driver...

I know we are close in proximity, but if you come near my laptop we are gonna have to fight...lol...

Honestly (ahaha see what I did there), I was half rooting for MS to make a bid for BlackBerry before they announced that they were buying Nokia. I know that MS really only wanted a manufacturer and wasn't all that concerned with acquiring software or patents, but they could've pulled some neat stuff from BB and folded it in to Windows/WP and related services.

I am with you. I thought for sure that bb was gonna be bought by them, it made all kinds of sense, and I actually think it could have been semi-spectacular.

Not sure who will get BlackBerry now...

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I actually kind of doubt that anyone will be willing to buy BB outright anymore. At this point, I'm guessing that the company will end up being dismantled and sold in parcels to different buyers. I think a lot of people would benefit if Google were to buy just the BES portion of the company, for example.

That ship has passed. Two years ago before knox I would have agreed. But now Knox and others in development have fragmented the security segment. The next few years are going to be ugly in that segment

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Honestly, I wanna see Sara Bareilles royalty check on those things! ;)

I actually liked the song before it got overplayed, shes a solid singer (which you might never key on from the singles that have charted).

Microsoft makes more in facilities maintenance than on Windows Phone, as they're probably spending a few billion per year on WP... :)

I feel the Chinese government really has a secret loathing of MS recently.

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Isn't Android losing dependency on these patents more and more by updating the OS? So in a few years time there will be fewer devices to owing as much royalties to MS. Hence the big Four and their rush to 4.4.3.

I'm sure Google is doing whatever they can to find alternatives that won't require royalties to be paid.

Essentially yes, that is what is likely to happen. Also, I don't understand this article because they say that the patents are being infringed but then day they pay royalties. I'm no patent attorney but I don't think that makes sense.

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Google was found to be infringing upon MS' patents, and then Google and MS reached a licensing agreement that involves Google (and OEMs, in accordance with other agreements) paying MS on a per-device-sold basis.

At this point, it's basically free money for MS. You can bet that Google's spending a lot of time and effort on developing workarounds that don't infringe upon anything of MS' intellectual property.

Actually, I think a good number of the cases with the separate OEMs were settled (for the royalty agreements in place) before they were ever proven to be infringing. Im not even sure Google themselves are paying MS anything, did they ever settle the Motorola case? Moto isnt even Google anymore tho they did keep the patents... I didnt keep on top of this, but from what I remember 1 or 2 years ago MS basically took the OPPOSITE approach than Apple, rather than sue and go nuclear they went up to individual OEM one by one and basically shake them down into license agreements rather than facing protracted court battles... Which in truth is pretty smart and works out better if you can afford it.

Simple. I say you are infringing. You can either pay me a little per device. Or spend a boatload more on a court case. And then if you are found to be infringing, pay me more for all those devices you shipped, pay my attorneys, and pay a fine.

Most companies just settle as it's cheaper. I actually wanted the Motorola and B&N cases to go to court just to make MS prove their claims.

As Microsoft gets pushed harder and harder in all the computing markets, I worry for what potential litigation damages they might cause if things get too bad for them. Microsoft owns a lot tech and still has the potential to shake the market, but if they continue fail in the mobile market while also slowly loosing the general computing space, things might get VERY ugly. Thermonuclear warfare will comence and the consumers will loose.

Microsoft is the Russia of the potential patent cold war.

Microsoft doesnt care to go thermonuclear and obliterate anything, theyve learned they need competition in the market or the government and EU gets all up in their business (sadly). Theyre happy to make money hand over fist off the patents, unlike Apple who simply wanted to destroy X or Y OEM (and Android in general) rather than license anything.

They really are a company that want to control everything. It is not hard to surmise controlling/owning the other OEMs. If they can they will.

If there are 127 Microsoft patents that are implemented in Android, how come Microsoft hasn't gone after Google who sells Nexus devices running on pure Android?

I'm not sure John is right on that... But even if they aren't, it's simple, Nexus devices sell in lower quantities and Google might fight back (as they did when MS went for Moto, was that case settled?). People seem to be missing the fact that most of MS patents weren't enforced in court, they didn't spend months fighting legal battles like Samsung / Apple / etc. It wasn't about instantly stomping the competition or some sorta moral victory for MS, it was all about the payday.

They went to OEMs (starting with the most vulnerable, like HTC, whom they already had a relationship with since they make WP devices) and basically told them: we can go to court and draw it out, or you can pay me a licensing fee (or some other sorta agreement) for X patent. OEMs saw the Apple debacle so most paid up without ever stepping in court.

It wouldn't surprise me if what really went down is that Microsoft put the squeeze on companies who were also Windows OEMs and told them their OEM agreement would be cancelled if they did not take the patent royalty deal. Samsung would probably have fought it out in court except they had a Windows laptop line. I remember that Samsung also put out a half-baked Windows Phone which was also probably part of the agreement.

Sammy's WP line (Omnia was it?) was making the rounds before all this went down, and if anything MS would be less likely to play hardball with existing partners cause they needed all the partners they could get (this was also before the Nokia acquisition, before they even committed to WP even). I'm sure existing relationships were factored in one way or the other tho, but most of the big Android OEM also build Windows products in one way or another with the exception of Moto (and possibly LG? at least in the US).