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Microsoft follows Foxconn agreement with ZTE Android patent licensing deal

Microsoft has inked another Android-related patent deal, this time with China's ZTE.

"Under the agreement, Microsoft grants ZTE a license to Microsoft's worldwide patent portfolio on ZTE phones, tablets, computers and other devices running Android and Chrome OS," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, wrote in a blog post.

While it seem odd that Microsoft is signing Android and Chrome-related deals, Microsoft holds patents relating to navigation and how websites display content - technology used on the Android and Chrome platforms.

The ZTE announcement comes shortly after Microsoft signed a similar patent deal with Foxconn.

"The ZTE and Foxconn agreements show once more that technology companies around the world ... recognize licensing is an effective way to share technology and build on each other's work, accelerating the pace of innovation and delighting customers," Gutierrez wrote.

Microsoft said it has paid more than $4 billion (£2.6bn) over the last decade to secure licensing deals of its own.

"This balanced approach to intellectual property licensing explains why, while others continue to pursue litigation around the world as the primary means of addressing their differences, we have successfully entered into license agreements with nearly all companies on the list of the world's largest Android smartphone vendors and their manufacturers," Gutierrez said.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing, though. Many deals are 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 agreed to invest $300 million (£196m) in Barnes & Noble's Nook business for a 17.6 per cent stake, which ended their patent litigation.

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.

Recently, ZTE has unveiled its Grand Memo phablet (pictured, top). But it has also come under scrutiny in the US, along with Huawei, from lawmakers who fear the companies are using their technology in the US to spy for the Chinese government.