updated 12:45 pm EST, Thu January 12, 2012
LG licenses Microsoft patents, explores partners
LG on Thursday became the latest company steered into signing a patent license deal with Microsoft. The Spectrum designer has agreed to pay Microsoft an unknown amount for "broad coverage" both on Android and Chrome OS despite LG not yet having a Chromebook on the market. Unlike past such licenses, however, Microsoft didn't issue a boilerplate observation that LG was paying royalties, leaving the door open to a lump sum.
Microsoft was keen to tout it as the eleventh such deal and that it now had 70 percent of Android hardware makers paying it for licenses. Acer, HTC, and Samsung are included, while the holdouts have included Motorola, Barnes & Noble, as well as many of the small firms in China.
The practice of demanding Android payments has regularly drawn criticism. Although Microsoft has repeatedly argued that Android and Chrome by their natures inherently violate its patents, it has been reluctant to publicly explain how it's infringing. Barnes & Noble has accused Microsoft of using the patents as a questionable weapon to hurt competition to Windows and Windows Phone, putting in terms that would let Microsoft block features, possibly regardless of whether or not they're relevant to patents.
The agreement came just as LG mentioned that it had been "quite active" in talking to other companies for partnerships, according to its mobile division chief Park Jong-seok. LG has been struggling to get success in smartphones and received an equivalent of nearly $1 billion in cash to prop up its mobile group, although the Optimus LTE and variants like the Nitro HD have helped "a lot," Park said. LG's Korean rival Samsung has been much more successful in the past year.
He unusually made the advance revelation of a five-inch, LTE-equipped smartphone and tablet crossover. It would be launched in the near future, Park said, hinting based on timing that it would likely show at Mobile World Congress in late February.