updated 05:45 pm EST, Tue November 8, 2011
Barnes and Noble says Microsoft licenses illegal
Barnes & Noble has quietly taken its allegations of Microsoft antitrust abuse to a formal level, according to newly-publicized documents. The company is now known to have sent a letter to the Department of Justice's chief competition counsel Gene Kimmelman on October 17 claiming that Microsoft's anti-Android patent licensing campaign was meant to artificially "drive out competition" and make companies choose Windows-based platforms. It contended that Microsoft's lawsuit against Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec was more to silence competition from the Nook and other devices than any attempt to protect claimed innovations.
Microsoft was undergoing a "series of tactics... to raise its rivals' costs and prevent Android-based devices from taking away sales of Microsoft's Windows operating system," the bookseller said.
The Windows developer has claimed to have an effective ownership of Android through patents that requires royalties for any commercial use of the OS. Regardless of the intentions, however, Barnes & Noble had previously accused Microsoft of setting an unrealistically high royalty rate that would hike the price of its Android-based Nook readers by a significant margin. According to the book chain, Microsoft purportedly wanted to charge much more than for a phone because of the vague similarity of the Nook to a tablet, and therefore a computer, even though Barnes & Noble couldn't have switched to any Microsoft OS.
Others, including Google, have leveled similar accusations that Microsoft's campaign has little to do with patent rights and more to try and push out competitors so that it can get the dominance of the mobile OS market that it enjoys on the desktop. Microsoft has always denied the claims but has conspicuously avoided defending the legitimacy of its patents, only insisting that Google is trying to change the rules. It didn't start pressing for licenses and suing resisters until spring 2010, when Windows Phone 7 was public and Android was much larger.
DOJ officials haven't given clues as to whether they will act on Barnes & Noble's dispute. [via Bloomberg]