Microsoft Sues Barnes & Noble, Foxconn Over Nook E-Reader

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Microsoft is suing Barnes & Noble (like they have any money), Foxconn International Holdings and Inventec for patent infringement, claiming that they have attempted to reach licensing agreements with the three companies for the past year. Microsoft alleges that Barnes & Noble and the manufacturers of its Nook e-reader violate the software company's Android operating system-based patents.

Microsoft has "established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers," according to the statement from Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing. Other original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), like HTC, which makes several popular Android-based smartphones, comply with the program. Microsoft is specifically concerned with patents that cover browser-based Web surfing, document interaction and touch-screen navigation.

The full statement released by Microsoft this afternoon is reproduced below:

REDMOND, Wash., March 21, 2011 /PRNewswire/ -- Microsoft Corp. today filed legal actions in the International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court of the Western District of Washington against Barnes & Noble, Inc. and its device manufacturers, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. and Inventec Corporation, for patent infringement by their Android-based e-reader and tablet devices that are marketed under the Barnes & Noble brand.

"The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft's patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights. To facilitate that we have established an industry-wide patent licensing program for Android device manufacturers," said Horacio Gutierrez, Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property & Licensing. "Other vendors, including HTC, a market leader in Android smartphones, have taken a license under this program, and 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," he added.

The patents at issue cover a range of functionality embodied in Android devices that are essential to the user experience, including: natural ways of interacting with devices by tabbing through various screens to find the information they need; surfing the Web more quickly, and interacting with documents and e-books.

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Nicholas Jackson is a former associate editor at The Atlantic.

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