The evil empire is Still Evil

The latest news from the patent wars is that Microsoft is still worthy of the Evil Empire moniker.

Their takeover of Nokia was really about combining their patent libraries and then going after the open source competition. Taking on a smaller Android user in the form of Barnes & Noble.

Microsoft has a scheme, Barnes & Noble asserts, to dominate Android and make it undesirable to device manufacturers and customers by demanding “exorbitant license fees and absurd licensing restrictions” — a license fee that it says is more than Microsoft charges for its entire operating system for mobile devices, Windows 7. Others have, it believes, signed it. Barnes & Noble says the deal with Nokia is in furtherance of this scheme.

The patents asserted are “trivial, not infringed and invalid”, Barnes & Noble says, and merely a vehicle in furtherance of the scheme, as they “are not even close to covering the entire functionality of Barnes & Noble’s NookTM and Nook ColorTM devices, or of the AndroidTM Operating System.”

They are proposing a licensing regime that values use of a few of their patents as more expensive than licensing the windows phone 7 mess, so it is clearly a mechanism to get OEM’s to use the Microsoft software rather than a fair price for the developmental effort that went into “Inventing” these patents.

This is essentially the same tactic that they have used for years to force manufacturers of PCs to only sell systems with windows installed. This is called the Joint Marketing Agreement. What this means is that if a manufacture undertakes to sell only systems with windows installed, then the per unit cost of those windows licenses is reduced. If they produce just one machine that doesn’t have windows installed then the unit price goes up. In a cut throat price competition for PCs then any OEM offering a non-windows machine means that all their windows machines become more expensive, so they all just offer windows.

How this has got past the competition authorities for so long is just amazing. One day we will probably find out about all the underhand deals that perpetuate this situation.


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