Microsoft Licenses Palm Patents

In a move aimed at shielding itself and its customers from lawsuits, Microsoft confirmed Friday that it has licensed an intellectual property (IP) portfolio that includes smartphone patents from Palm and PalmSource.

The news comes just days before Microsoft's (NASDAQ: MSFT) launch gala for its entry into the smartphone space. Windows Phone 7 is due for its close up on Monday in New York.

The patent deal was announced Thursday night by Access Co., Ltd., and a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corp., which licensed the patents owned by Tokyo-based Access to Microsoft, according to an Access statement.

Besides smartphone patents from Palm and PalmSource, the portfolio also contains patents from Bell Communications Research, and Geoworks.

Microsoft, which has come under fire in patent infringement cases in the recent past, has been saying for several years that free software -- including Linux -- is not really free because code may use innovations patented by someone else. In fact, Microsoft has long guaranteed customers that they will not be held liable for any IP infringement suits filed against them regarding Microsoft software.

As if to underline that assertion, Microsoft just over a week ago sued Motorola (NYSE: MOT) for patent infringement in Android-based smartphones.

With the licensing deal, however, the company demonstrated that it knows when to take a license out on a technology in order to avoid legal problems.

"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," David Kaefer, general manager for intellectual property and licensing at Microsoft, said in an e-mail to InternetNews.com.

In late April, HP purchased Palm and said it will build consumer tablet computers based on it.

HP also said, however, that it will produce a Windows 7 slate computer for the enterprise. Many industry observers are expecting to see new tablet computers demonstrated at Monday's official rollout of Windows Phone 7.

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


Android, Microsoft, patents, Palm, Windows Phone 7