Microsoft to Get Royalties From Another Android Device

Microsoft announced Monday that General Dynamics' Itronix division has licensed patents that the software giant claims to hold in mobile devices it makes that run Google's Android operating system.

The agreement is just one of several licensing deals that Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) has signed with purveyors of devices that run on Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) smartphone operating system.

Still other claims await their day in court. For instance, last fall, Microsoft sued Motorola (NYSE: MOT), which uses Android in its Droid smartphones, for patent infringement.

Microsoft, however, has yet to sue or sign a licensing deal with Google itself.

The company's executives for some time, though, have said that Android, as well as open source Linux, are not "free," and have backed that up in legal claims.

For example, in March, Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble over its use of Android in its Nook ereader.

Meanwhile, several companies, including HTC and now Itronix, that use Android have chosen to sign royalty licensing deals with Microsoft rather than get caught up in long-running, and expensive litigation.

"We are pleased to have reached this agreement with General Dynamics Itronix, which is an example of how industry leaders address intellectual property," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, said in a statement.

Itronix makes ruggedized mobile devices for industry and the military.

The latest licensing deal comes at a time when Microsoft is at a crucial crossroads with its own smartphone operating system -- Windows Phone 7 (WP7) -- which has been slow to catch on with both consumers and corporate customers since its launch last fall.

In fact, analyst firm Gartner recently said that Android led the smartphone pack in the first quarter of 2011, with some 36 million units sold.

Garter said that Microsoft's February deal with Nokia to use WP7 as its smartphone operating system beginning later this year may ultimately bring Microsoft into second place behind Android by 2015, merely through competition in the market.

In the meantime, Microsoft’s legal team seems to be making patent deals to both protect its own intellectual property as well as bring in income from licensing those patents to competitors who are using Android.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, although the Microsoft statement said that Itronix will pay the software giant royalties for its use of Microsoft patents.

Stuart J. Johnston is a contributing editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals. Follow him on Twitter @stuartj1000.