At the heart of the issue are patents that Microsoft claims it owns for certain aspects of the Android user experience. The technology titan specifically mentioned “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” as three examples of functionality that Microsoft has patented.
Instead of suing every Android device maker though, Microsoft typically lets them sign a patent licensing agreement. Microsoft and HTC entered a licensing deal last year that covers Android devices. In return for the patent license, HTC agreed to pay Microsoft royalty fees on a yearly basis.
The Barnes & Noble Nook e-reader utilizes a custom version of Android for its operating system and partners with Foxconn and Inventec to build the device. Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec haven’t signed patent licensing deals with Microsoft though, and apparently negotiations have hit a brick wall.
“We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec,” Microsoft Corporate Vice President Horacio Gutierrez said. “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.”
This is not the first time Microsoft has sued a device manufacturer over Android. Last October, Microsoft sued Motorola over some of the enhancements it has made to the Android platform.