Microsoft Collects Android Royalties from OEMs

Microsoft may not have a tablet computer out until next year, but don't tell the company's patent lawyers. They're bringing in royalty checks as if Windows tablets were already on the market -- and, perhaps in a way, they are.

Less than two weeks since Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) announced a licensing deal with the Itronix division of General Dynamics for the use of patents it claims to hold that are used in Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android mobile operating system, the software behemoth is back with three more Android OEMs that have signed up to pay royalties on its patent claims.

On June 27, Microsoft trumpeted a royalty deal with Itronix over that company's use of Android in ruggedized mobile devices it makes for use by the military and industry. Terms of the deal were not disclosed except that Itronix will pay royalties for use of Microsoft patents embodied in Android.

Two days later, Microsoft announced a similar royalty agreement with Velocity Micro for its Android-based devices, including Velocity Micro's Cruz Tablet. Once again, the terms weren't disclosed except for another check to Microsoft.

On June 30, there was yet another announcement of an agreement and a royalty check, covering Android's use in tablets made by Onkyo.

Finally, on July 5, Microsoft announced a third agreement -- this one involving Wistron's "tablets, mobile phones, e-readers, and other consumer devices running the Android or Google Chrome platforms," according to a Microsoft statement.

"We are pleased that Wistron is taking advantage of our industrywide licensing program, established to help companies address Android’s IP issues," Horacio Gutierrez, deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, said in a statement Tuesday.

It's all part of a program by Microsoft to prove that Android is not "free." Earlier this year, Microsoft won similar concessions from mobile device maker HTC.

Not every OEM has buckled under, however.

For instance, Microsoft last fall sued Motorola (NYSE: MOT) over its use of Android in its Droid mobile devices.

Additionally, in March, Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble over Android's use in the book seller's Nook e-reader.

Perhaps ironically, though, Microsoft has so far not sued Google itself regarding the patents it claims to hold in Android. The question on everybody's mind is just when will that big showdown occur?

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.