updated 04:20 pm EDT, Mon March 21, 2011
Microsoft Android suit vs Nook, Foxconn, Inventec
Microsoft hoped to further stifle competition from Android on Monday with a lawsuit targeting non-traditional sources. Following its belief that every Android device maker owes royalties, it sued Barnes & Noble and its manufacturers Foxconn and Inventec for allegedly infringing on patent rights through its Android-based Nook e-readers. It had unsuccessfully tried to negotiate a deal for more than a year and had "no choice" but to "defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility," Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez claimed.
The suit was accompanied by an International Trade Commission request that, if successful, would lead to the Nook being banned from import into the US. ITC complaints are often used as bargaining tactics to pressure the target company into a settlement, since they tend to be decided more quickly.
Barnes & Noble hadn't responded so far but was expected to challenge the lawsuit.
Suing Barnes & Noble further escalates a pattern of shakedowns that are known to be a proxy fight against Google, which it sees as rivaling not only Windows Phone but mobile ad revenue from Bing. Microsoft has already sued Motorola and threatened Asian manufacturers. It notably avoids suing any company that agrees to make Windows Phone 7 devices and made a deal with HTC and hasn't shown any signs of threatening Dell, LG, or Samsung, although they may have struck deals in private.
Contract manufacturers are a new strategy and would show Microsoft hoping to cut off supply at the source by encouraging Foxconn and Inventec to distance themselves from Android.
Microsoft hasn't attacked Google directly so far, partly due to the size of the company it would face but also the OS licensing system. Android is free to license and thus doesn't give any immediate material gain to Google other than eventual ad revenue and brand recognition. Hardware manufacturers are its only remaining targets at that stage and so far haven't received any formal sheltering from Google.
Until Motorola goes to trial, Microsoft won't have had the patents' validity tested in earnest in court.