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Microsoft Takes Legal Aim at Android Devices

Does Google's Android infringe on Microsoft's patents?

Microsoft today took legal action against Barnes & Noble, Inc. as well as its device manufacturer partners, Foxconn International Holdings Ltd. and Inventec Corporation. At issue is alleged patent infringement by the Barnes and Noble e-reader that is powered by Google's Android operating system.

"The Android platform infringes a number of Microsoft’s patents, and companies manufacturing and shipping Android devices must respect our intellectual property rights," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft said in a statement.

Google has a different opinion.

"Sweeping software patent claims like Microsoft's threaten innovation," Google said in a statement sent to InternetNews.com. "While we are not a party to this lawsuit, we stand behind the Android platform and the partners who have helped us to develop it."

Guiterrez noted that Microsoft has licensed its intellectual property to other vendors in the Android space including HTC. He added that Microsoft has been attempting to engage Barnes and Noble and its device manufacturers in a licensing agreement for the past year.

Google's Android operating system leverages multiple components from the open source ecosystem as well as components from Oracle's Java. Microsoft has long argued that open source software infringes on its intellectual property. On the Linux front, Microsoft has a multi-year patent covenant with Linux vendor Novell already.

Oracle is currently involved in its own lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in Android.

Microsoft has specifically identified at least five patents that Android may be infringing upon. Among the patents at issue is, U.S. Patent No. 5,889,522 which is titled, "System provided child window controls." The patent describes a method to enable the opening of a new, tabbed control window.

U.S. Patent No. 5,778,372, describes a method for, "Remote retrieval and display management of electronic documents." U.S. Patent No. 6,339,780 is about providing the status of download and is titled, "Loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area."

The ability to select text is the subject of U.S. Patent No. 6,891,551 titled, "Selection handles in editing electronic documents."

One other Microsoft patent that may be at issue is U.S. Patent No. 6,957,233 which describes a method and apparatus for capturing annotations for a non-modifiable document.

Barnes & Noble isn't the first vendor that Microsoft had taken legal action against due to alleged Android infringement issues. In 2010, Microsoft filed suit against Motorola alleging infringement of nine Microsoft patents.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.