Microsoft on Monday launched a patent infringement lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, FoxConn International Holdings and Inventec Corp. over several features in the Android-based Nook e-reader and the Nook Color Tablet products.
“HTC, a market leader in Android smart phones, has taken a license under [our] program," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's deputy general counsel for intellectual property and licensing in a statement to the press. "We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec.
"Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market.”
The suits were filed in federal district court for the Western District of Washington, and at the International Trade Commission, a court that considers patent infringement litigation against foreign companies importing products.
The patent infringement lawsuit is notable both because it's the latest in a melee of other patent infringement lawsuits that have developed in the past year in the mobile device space as each of the big entrants seek to establish their primacy and market-leading position in an exploding market, and because Microsoft has spent the past few years fighting off infringement lawsuits itself. It has said that it has been the target of much frivolous patent infringement litigation.
One of the lawsuits it is currently involved in, Microsoft v. i4i, is currently being considered by the Supreme Court.
The case concerns a software consulting firm in Toronto, Canada, that holds a patent on a program that allows for custom editing of XML, a computer markup language.
The software firm sued Microsoft for patent infringement in 2007, and a jury ultimately found Microsoft liable for willful infringement. The consulting company, i4i and its partners were awarded nearly $300 million in damages in 2009.
Microsoft has appealed that decision, arguing that the patent is invalid. It lost on appeal and has appealed the case to the high court.
The patents at issue in the case against Barnes & Noble, FoxConn and Inventec cover five different functionalities as described by Microsoft in its blog. The features variously cover navigation, display, downloading, text-selecting and annotating functions.
In explaining the company's decision to sue Barnes & Noble and company, Microsoft's Gutierrez noted that "Microsoft is not a company that pursues litigation lightly."
"In fact, this is only our seventh proactive patent infringement suit in our 36-year history," he wrote on the Microsoft blog.
Gutierrez had another interesting statistic to share on the blog.
"Together with the patents already asserted in the course of our litigation against Motorola, today’s actions bring to 25 the total number of Microsoft patents in litigation for infringement by Android smartphones, tablets and other devices," he noted.