Microsoft sue Barnes & Noble over Android patents

Microsoft continued its campaign to bring down rival Google's Android mobile operating system yesterday, launching a law suit against US bookseller Barnes & Noble, whose Nook e-book reader uses the OS.

The software giant claims that the Nook violates five Microsoft patents, including "remote retrieval and display management of electronic document with incorporated images" and "loading status in a hypermedia browser having a limited available display area", writes tech blog Geekwire.

The new lawsuit, which also names hardware manufacturers Foxconn and Inventec, echoes an ongoing dispute that Microsoft launched in October 2010 against mobile maker Motorola.

Microsoft claims that, contrary to Google's pronouncements, Android is not a 'free' operating system, because it incorporates technology for which the software giant holds patents. According to the Windows maker, device manufacturers are obliged to pay Microsoft patent fees for using the technology.

In a press release, Microsoft Corporate Vice President and Deputy General Counsel for Intellectual Property & Licensing, Horacio Gutierrez, said:

"We have tried for over a year to reach licensing agreements with Barnes & Noble, Foxconn and Inventec.

"Their refusals to take licenses leave us no choice but to bring legal action to defend our innovations and fulfill our responsibility to our customers, partners, and shareholders to safeguard the billions of dollars we invest each year to bring great software products and services to market."

Microsoft has already persuded smartphone maker HTC to sign a patent licensing agreement for the technology. It appears that the lawsuits against Motorola and Barnes & Noble are intended to ensure other manufacturers do likewise - or, preferably, to deter hardware manufacturers from using Android altogether.

This would leave the playing field clear for Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 platform to take on the Apple iPhone, in the wake of the software company's newly inked partnership with Nokia.

Whichever way the fight pans out, it seems unlikely Microsoft has either the stomach - or the budget - for a head-on confrontation with Android's maker, Google.

Microsoft's legal challenge to Android comes just days after IP lawyer Edward J Naughton claimed that Google may have violated the Linux licensing agreement, accusing the company of lifting significant portions of the Linux source code and presenting it as its own.