This article was published on April 27, 2011

Barnes & Noble spits on Microsoft over patent dispute

Barnes & Noble spits on Microsoft over patent dispute
Alex Wilhelm
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Alex Wilhelm

Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected] Alex Wilhelm is a San Francisco-based writer. You can find Alex on Twitter, and on Facebook. You can reach Alex via email at [email protected]

Update: Microsoft has commented on the response, please see the bottom of the post.

I love the smell of a lawsuit in the morning, it smells like, warfare.

Bookseller, and purveyor of the popular Nook ereading device, Barnes & Noble (BN) has just filed a rebuttal to the legal allegations put forth by Microsoft that implicate the firm in intellectual property abuse.

Microsoft’s contention is that by installing the Android operating system into the Nook, BN is infringing on Microsoft patents. BN claims that Microsoft charges high prices for use of its intellectual property that the Redmond software giant contends relates to Android, and in the process makes Android “unusable and unattractive to both consumers and device manufacturers through exorbitant license fees and absurd licensing restrictions.”

According to BN, the restrictions that Microsoft seeks to enforce “bear no relation to the scope and subject matter of its own patents.”

Also according to BN, others have signed with Microsoft to pay the fees to avoid the hammer of legal action. But BN is not taking the matter sitting down. It contends that Microsoft has no place to be collecting revenues from companies that employ Android, because “Microsoft did not invent, research, develop, or make available to the public mobile devices employing the Android Operating System and other open source operating systems.” And yet, again according to BN, the company “seeks to dominate something it did not invent.”

BN does not stop there. It also alleges that Microsoft and its new partner Nokia have formed a cabal that intends on using intellectual property as a weapon:

Microsoft and Nokia discussed and apparently agreed upon a strategy for coordinated offensive use of their patents. Indeed, in videotaped remarks made two days after the Microsoft-Nokia agreement was announced, Nokia’s CEO Stephen Elop confirmed that Microsoft and Nokia had discussed how their combined intellectual property portfolio is “remarkably strong” and that Microsoft and Nokia intended to use this combined portfolio both defensively and offensively. [Emphasis TNW]

According to BN such action is “per se illegal under the antitrust laws,” and “threatens competition for mobile device operating systems and is further evidence of Microsoft’s efforts to dominate and control Android and other open source operating systems.”

Those, ladies and gentlemen, are fighting words. Obviously, Microsoft will respond in short order. What they say could mark the start of a new chapter for open source software and its place in the world of intellectual property.

TNWmicrosoft is reaching out to Microsoft for comment.

Update: Microsoft’s statement:

“Our lawsuits against Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec are founded upon their actions, and the issue is their infringement of our intellectual property rights. In seeking to protect our intellectual property, we are doing what any other company in our situation would do.”

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