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Judge to Barnes & Noble: Microsoft just "hard bargaining"

updated 04:55 pm EST, Wed February 15, 2012

Steps to eliminate Android not antitrust

Late last month, an International Trade Commission (ITC) Administrative Law Judge threw out Barnes & Noble's key claims in its patent dispute with Microsoft that the software company was abusing patents it held on elements of the Android OS in order to push the operating system out of the market. Earlier this week, an edited copy of the judge's ruling was made available to the public (PDF). The judge was now known to have been of the opinion that, while Microsoft's actions were "hard bargaining," they didn't represent misuse of the patents.

Microsoft holds several patents it believes are related to Android . It has sought licensing fees from smart phone and tablet makers estimated to be as much as $12.50 per device. The company has already come to agreement with major manufacturers including HTC, LG, and Samsung. Barnes & Noble, which makes the Nook Color, Simple Touch Reader and Nook Tablet, has challenged Microsoft's right's to collect royalties. A key component of the bookseller's case was its contention that Microsoft was abusing its patents in violation of antitrust laws.

The judge, Theodore Essex, disagreed. Even if Microsoft intended to eliminate Android as a competitor to the company's own Windows Phone, the judge ruled, this wasn't sufficient grounds to claim either an antitrust violation or patent abuse.

Essex's opinion greatly narrows the scope of Barnes & Noble's legal arguments. B&N has said it would appeal the ruling, arguing that the judge had not factored in the company's central contention that Microsoft's licensing program sought to exact fees for allegedly old and inconsequential elements of the technology covered by the patents.

Subsequent to Judge Essex's ruling, an ITC staff lawyer, Jeff Hsu, indicated that he would recommend to the judge a non-binding opinion that Barnes & Noble hadn't infringed on three patents held by Microsoft that were at the center of the legal dispute.

An initial decision in the full case is expected on April 27. A final ruling from the ITC is expected in August. [via GeekWire]

by MacNN Staff



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