Microsoft has inked a deal with Foxconn parent company Hon Hai that allows the Taiwan-based firm to produce devices - like smartphones, tablets, and TVs - that include technology covered by Microsoft's patents for Android and Chrome OS.
Microsoft holds patents relating to navigation and how websites display content - technology used on the Android and Chrome platforms. Terms of the Foxconn deal were not released, but the company will pay Microsoft a royalty for the Android and Chrome OS-based devices it produces.
"We are pleased that the list of companies benefitting from Microsoft's Android licensing programme now includes the world's largest contract manufacturer, Hon Hai," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "By licensing both brand name companies and their contract manufacturers, we have successfully increased the overall effectiveness and global reach of the program."
"We recognise and respect the importance of international efforts that seek to protect intellectual property," said Samuel Fu, director of the Intellectual Property Department at Hon Hai. "The licensing agreement with Microsoft represents those efforts and our continued support of international trade agreements that facilitate implementation of effective patent protection."
Fu said Hon Hai has more than 54,000 patents of its own.
With the Foxconn deal, "nearly all manufacturers in the Android ecosystem have taken an IP license," Gutierrez tweeted last night.
Microsoft's patent licensing program dates back to December 2003. The company has previously signed patent licensing deals with companies like HTC, Samsung, Suanta, Copal Electronics, Wistron, LG, and Pegatron.
Those deals were often preceded by legal action. In March 2011, Microsoft sued Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec for patent infringement over the retailer's Android-based Nook eBook readers and tablets, which are produced by Foxconn and Inventec.
A year later, Microsoft announced that it would invest $300 million (£196m) in Barnes & Noble's Nook business for a 17.6 per cent stake, which ended their patent litigation.