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Microsoft Pays Smartphone Patent Royalties to Access Co

Microsoft paid royalties on smartphone patents held by Access Co. Ltd., according to an announcement issued on Thursday.

The patents involved weren't disclosed. The news came via a jointly issued press release from Tokyo-based Access Co. Ltd. and Newport Beach, Calif.-based Acacia Research Corp. It's not clear why Acacia Research was involved in the settlement since the patents were held by Access. However, Acacia specializes in partnering with inventors and patent holders and licensing those technologies to corporations.

Some of the patented technologies were originally devised by other companies, including "Palm, Palmsource, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks," according to the announcement. Apparently, HP, which announced the acquisition of Palm Inc. in April, doesn't hold the patent that was licensed. An HP spokesperson explained that "when Palm spun off PalmSource the patent portfolio was split up as well. ACCESS eventually bought what was left of PalmSource, including the patents it held."

Microsoft confirmed on Friday that it had paid the royalties.

"By focusing on efficiently licensing patented innovations from other companies, we're free to develop great software and we're able to provide our partners and customers IP peace-of-mind," stated David Kaefer, general manager of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, in a prepared statement.

Microsoft settled a patent dispute in April with its partner HTC, which makes mobile devices. This month, Microsoft announced that it is suing Motorola over patents allegedly used by the Android Linux-based mobile operating system. The Motorola dispute mirrors Microsoft's claims in the HTC lawsuit, which also targeted Android.

Mobile litigation and settlements have seemingly hit a fever pitch as Microsoft prepares for an unveiling of Windows Phone 7-based devices on Oct. 11. Horatio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, has indicated in statements that mobile lawsuits have moved beyond disputes over the radio component, especially as smartphones have begun to take on the functionality of PCs.

Still, the litigation hasn't always trended in Microsoft's favor. Microsoft's court losses to Toronto-based i4i led Microsoft to argue that the standards for disproving patents are too high. In that case, Microsoft disputed i4i's patent on "custom XML" technology, which was found to have been used in Microsoft Word.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is online news editor for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.

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