Barnes & Noble Revealing Microsoft's 'Secret' Patents, Which It Believes Cover Android

from the trivial-patents dept

Earlier this year, Microsoft continued its shakedown war against all things Android by suing Barnes & Noble for patent infringement over the Nook. As we discussed, B&N is fighting back in a big way, claiming that Microsoft’s shakedown tactics are an antitrust violation. As that effort moves forward, it’s beginning to reveal a ton of useful info. While Microsoft continues to try to keep the patents it’s using in these shakedowns “secret,” B&N has been revealing them. Groklaw has the details:

The patents, we read, “cover only arbitrary, outmoded and non-essential design features” and yet Microsoft is demanding “prohibitively expensive licensing fees”, in effect asserting “veto power” over Android’s features. One aspect of the license, Barnes & Noble tells us, was a demand to control design elements, requiring designers to adhere to specific hardware and software specifications in order to obtain a license. That, Barnes & Noble says, is “oppressive and anticompetitive”. I think it’s accurate to say that the company believes it is illegal.

Barnes & Noble asserts that Microsoft is attempting “to use patents to drive open source software out of the market,” saying it, in essence, is acting like a patent troll, threatening companies using Android with a destructive and anticompetitive choice: pay Microsoft exorbitant rates for patents, some trivial and others ridiculously invalid or clearly not infringed, or spend a fortune on litigation.

Beyond revealing more of the patents, the company, in its filings, makes it clear what it believes Microsoft is doing:

Instead of focusing on innovation and the development of new products for consumers, Microsoft has decided to invest its efforts into driving open source developers from the mobile operating systems market. Through the use of offensive licensing agreements and the demand for unreasonable licensing fees, Microsoft is hindering creativity in the mobile operating systems market…. Through the use of oppressive licensing terms that amount to a veto power over a wide variety of innovative features in Android devices of all kinds, as well as its prohibitively expensive licensing fees, Microsoft is attempting to push open source software developers out of the market altogether.

Seems like a pretty accurate summary from what we’ve seen. It’s really pretty sad when the focus of your business is hindering others, rather than innovating yourself.

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Companies: barnes & noble, microsoft

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Comments on “Barnes & Noble Revealing Microsoft's 'Secret' Patents, Which It Believes Cover Android”

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Prisoner 201 says:

There are no invalid patents. There are no bad patents. There are no patent trolls, big or small.

If you just follow the law, you won’t have any problems with patents. It is very easy to know what is patented. Just be original and do not leech off others.

Stealing is wrong. Murder is wrong. Especially murdering children. Everyone knows this. If you are against patents you support the kidnapping and murder of children. Everyone likes patents.

Patents bring us a better future.


LyleD says:

O’ comon.. Sinse when has Microsoft ever had an original idea?

Dos? They bought someone else’s operating system…
Windoze? Stole that from Apple (who stole it from Xerox)…
Word? They weren’t first, not sure who was tho..
Spreadsheets? Same as word…

They’ve always been complete money whores who bought or stole every good idea they ever came out with..

It’s also not really surprising they’d behave anti-competitively and it’s certainly not the first time for that either…

Anonymous Coward says:

Perfectly Simple Fix

All this trouble from Microsoft is coming from one place and one place only – the monopoly privilege which has been foolishly granted to Microsoft by the government. Microsoft is now very deliberately preventing the progress of the useful arts by exercising its monopoly power. Monopolies are bad for the economy and impose enormous economic losses in return for benefits which are illusory.

Persons and companies have been going to the government and getting monopolies, since the middle ages and likely from a lot earlier than that. This rent seeking has always been disastrous to the economy. It is time to call a halt. Take the monopoly privilege out of the patent system. Repeal the part of the law which says patent infringement is illegal. Tell the patent bar to get out of the courts and stay out. Yes, that amounts to instant free licenses for everybody. Greedy inventors will whine a lot. The change is not actually bad for them, if they adapt intelligently to the new situation. However, it is good for the rest of us, because it greatly reduces the cost of the patent system.

The quality of patents is so low that granting a monopoly privilege is not justified. It is up to inventors to raise the quality of their patents. Then maybe they can persuade economists that granting them a monopoly again would be beneficial to the population in general. The economists may be expected to be skeptical, given the history so far.

Richard (profile) says:


Microsoft might have pioneered large scale FUD
Nah – that would be IBM – now a somewhat chastened and reformed character after they gifted their dominant position to Microsoft.

(I actually think that the way IBM has re-invented itself is an object lesson to all big companies facing market/technological change. Microsoft learnt from them how to create an empire based on FUD – now they could learn again how to survive the collapse of an empire by focussing on the real needs of their customers.)

LyleD says:


I was programming in Basic on a Sinclair ZX80 before the first PC was even invented.. And wow, I just found out it’s a lot older than that, 1964 apparently;

And as for Visual Studio.. I’d say the main reason for it’s popularity was a lack of mainstream opposition.. Until .NET it seriously sucked huge balls…

O, another great idea (they never had) C# !

Radjin (profile) says:


No, They protect something I made. or if something I made is required for an entire market to function I at least get paid for my research and innovation. Agreed Microsoft works to protect their business model rather then their patents, but if they do own them and they are infringed upon they are due any compensation they deem it worth. If someone thinks the costs too much, then don’t infringe, innovate your own way.

Ambi (profile) says:

What a load of crap

Opposing children=murdering children…Wow! i think you are working for microsoft or for a lawfirm which works for it. Even company like redhat has patents but they never use that to kill them. Imagine Indians patenting ‘0’, thomas edison patenting electricity and dennis richie patenting C program.The world would have been still in 80s.

Jay (profile) says:


They protect something I made. or if something I made is required for an entire market to function I at least get paid for my research and innovation.

Please show evidence of this. Over the past few years, I’ve seen little that corresponds to this actually happening.

Agreed Microsoft works to protect their business model rather then their patents, but if they do own them and they are infringed upon they are due any compensation they deem it worth

Just because Microsoft, Intellectual Ventures or the myriad of shell companies own a piece of paper vaguely describing a screw, it does not mean they own the market for screws. That’s the problem with patents that has not been fixed by the “Patent Reform Bill”. It’s a useless piece of paper trying to say they can control the market and keep people locked up to their gadgets which aren’t even as good.

If someone thinks the costs too much, then don’t infringe, innovate your own way

Amazing. The entire problem with this thinking is it misses out on the smaller innovations of people taking a certain innovation and building on it, making the product better. No one can innovate because it’s assumed that 100 engineers have to start from scratch everytime they work on something new. How does that make any sense instead of making edits to coding, finding flaws through peer review, and taking resources and making them better with shared knowledge?

The eejit (profile) says:


Patents, as they are now, are a tax on innovation. More importantly, it is directly taking money out of the innovator’s hands and putting it into their legal counsel’s. This shouldn’t be the case at all.

There should be a four-step flowchart for patents, if they should even exist at all:

1) Is it an obvious next step in a previous patent? If yes -> No patent
2) Is it a minor adaptation of a previous patent? If yes -> No patent
3) Does it have an alpha-prototype? If no -> No patent
4) Is it being held in a portfolio and being used to shakedown the competition without being in a device close to marketability? If yes -> No patent.

out_of_the_blue says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

It’s what they do. It’s inherent in bigness. That’s why bigness must be a primary reason to regulate and break up corporations, ignoring silliness about “natural” monopoly. There’s nothing “natural” about corporations: they’re granted a privilege to exist, and must actually be prevented from exercising “natural” tendencies.

“It’s really pretty sad when the focus of your business is hindering others, rather than innovating yourself.” — You are manifestly ignorant (probably willfully so; it’s the only way anyone can remain even vaguely “capitalist”) of what Microsoft has been doing the last 30 years. Their “business model” in three words is: COPY AND HINDER.

Anonymous Coward says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

You know what’s funny about your opinion on monopolies?

Big corporations with monopolies: Terrible! Bad! Tear them down! Nobody should get monopolies!

Big (rock?) stars with monopolies (copyright): Awesome! Great! Artists are the kings! Long live copyright!

So…make up your mind please?

Anonymous Coward says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

I see two main differences.

First, corporations are incapable of exercising morality. Its officers may, but they must act for the common good of the shareholders and that usually means anything for profit. If it was a real person, it would be a psychopath/sociopath.

Second, blue does not like corporations like microsoft and google because he or his boss blame them for costing him money

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
-Upton Sinclair

Richard (profile) says:

@ "the original Microsoft Basic was their own"

Never said there were any original ideas – just their own implementation on a very limited machine – which did require a certain amount of skill. Getting any sort of high level language to work well on the microprocessor systems of the day was quite an achievement.

Also – inventing new languages is not difficult having the discipline to work with the current standards is harder (for the kind of people who do this stuff). This is one area where we really don’t want everyone coming up with their own version.
Arguably one of Microsoft’s most annoying features in recent years has been a tendency to refuse to use the common standard and push their own variant (Direct 3D instead of OPenGL, OfficeOpen document format instead of Open document format, J++ instead of Java – J# instead of Java C# instead of Java (ANYTHING instead of Java it seems!)

Originality is NOT always a good thing.

out_of_the_blue says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

@ an AC or two:

Big corporations for me include RIAA / MPAA.

It’s Mike who SAID: “I don’t want the [RIAA and MPAA] to fail at all.” — And it’s past tense, because he dishonestly changed his text without any sign that had; the quote here is what he said first.

I suggest that you just watch for Mike’s true attitude on corporations: I’m always against, while Mike thinks a corporation should shield even Righthaven principals, and Mike has no problems with monopolies.

Anonymous Coward says:


It’s far worse then that.

There are a lot of what you call prior art out there for stuff that later has a patent slapped on it. So you can be using something for years and then get sued for a patent filed years after everyone was using the same technology.

Take whats going on with Nintento. Where the patents they are being sued for… were filed more then a month ‘after’ they were showing off a working system on the WII. Some real innovation there for sure.

Marcel de Jong (profile) says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

He is still saying the same thing in the article you linked. No dishonesty there, quote:

That is very much the way I feel about the legacy music and movie businesses. I’m a huge fan of movies, music and books. I would love for all those industries to continue to be as successful as possible, but that requires adapting, and, like Barry, I just don’t see many of those legacy players doing a very good job adapting. But that doesn’t mean I want them to fail, or even dislike them. I just wish they’d stop trying to muck up the rest of the world while they attempt to figure all of this out.

(emphasis mine)

Anonymous Coward says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

It does look like you’re cherry picking facts. Mike, afaik, has been trying to get old business models to adapt, not to bankrupt them.

Personally, I’m less forgiving. The RIAA pissed me off. For a while, they were acting like true psychopaths. The MPAA started to follow suit but saw the strategy for the cluster fuck that it was and stopped.

I can see both sides of the corporation argument. We want to encourage risky behavior to a point because it can be a great benefit to society. However, the pendulum has swung too far. Corporate personhood is a bad joke.

kirillian (profile) says:

@ "the original Microsoft Basic was their own"

I would argue that introducing new languages as alternatives to Java is actually innovation. Java does not fit like a glove on every project.

Actually, the introduction of languages I feel is quite innovative in general. Sure, there’s frustration that stems from the vast array of choices out there and the fragmentation/specialization that grows out of that, but the community in general decides what languages will become popular and which will die, so overall, it’s kinda an evolution of the programming languages if you will, which is most likely an overall general improvement.

MrWilson says:


“No one can innovate because it’s assumed that 100 engineers have to start from scratch everytime they work on something new.”

That and there are only certain ways of doing somethings efficiently or effectively, meaning that there are somethings you can’t create if you are stuck behind a patent on the only and obvious route to further innovation.

Anonymous Coward says:

Big corporations always exercise monopoly powers.

You’re so cute when you think you can speak with any shred of credibility on anything even remotely relate to economics. Given that you can’t even accurately or consistently define ‘capitalism’ I’d be shocked if anyone cared what you thought one had to so to remain ‘capitalist.’

Willton says:

MS Secret Patents

Sorry, but this is just lame. It’s like a truism wrapped in a cliche. I think trolling is heinous and what’s described here is low even for habitually anti-competitive Microsoft, but please come up with something better than “It’s the lawyers!” It’s getting as meaningful as “…but the children!”

Indeed. The commentariat here loves to make laywers pariahs, and it’s getting really old really quick.

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