For years, Microsoft has been claiming that its patents are used in Android, and rightly so, but it never revealed which patents were exactly involved. Until last month, when the Chinese Ministry of Commerce disclosed all the 310 Microsoft-owned patents. We know that a massive amount of cash is paid to the Redmond-giant every year for licensing purposes. But how useful are these patents? And more importantly, can Android handset makers look for other alternatives? M-Cam surely hopes so.
M-Cam, a global financial institution that surely knows a lot about Intellectual property (IP) and intangible assets (IA), found that Google could save money by looking for free alternatives to most of those 310 patents. There was a reason why Microsoft never disclosed its Android patents. Now that it is out, more than 20 companies that signed the Microsoft-Android patents deals, can investigate on those patents, and may as well, try looking for alternatives.
“By disclosing the detailed list of these patents, companies who currently pay a license to Microsoft for the Android platform may discover that they have patents on the same technologies which precede Microsoft’s patents. This may create an opening for them to either negotiate a better deal or demand that Microsoft license from them.”
“Much of the Android platform may, in fact, be a ‘Freedom to Operate’ space and already part of the public domain.”
M-Cam says that it investigated on whether Microsoft actually owns proprietary rights to the Android OS, or are the companies that are paying it huge amounts of money simply uninformed. Upon assessment of the patents, M-Cam found that only 21 percent of those patents should be licensed commercially, whereas the rest 79 percent are not commercially irrelevant. In short, as M-Cam puts it, “Much of the Android platform may, in fact, be a ‘Freedom to Operate’ space and already part of the public domain.” Thus, M-Com concludes that companies could find alternatives for most of the patents.
As ZDNet reminds us, Microsoft gets around $8 on every Android device that is sold. If you do the math, Microsoft has made a lot more money from Android than from its own Windows Phone operating system.
But now the investigation has found that majority of the patents are not standard-essential patents (SEP). “If Microsoft’s claim to ownership of the Android OS is not as strong as it has insisted, then its patents on smartphones may not be the standard-essential patents (SEP) that it claims they are. Further analysis of these patents is required for a definitive answer.” If M-Cam’s findings are accurate, Microsoft might have to face legal and business challenges in the coming years.