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Microsoft snares ZTE for Android licence fees

24 Apr 2013

Microsoft has inked yet another patent licensing deal with an Android smartphone maker, this time Chinese giant ZTE, leaving Google's Motorola unit increasingly out on a limb.

The deal means that 80 percent of Android smartphones sold in the US and a majority of ones sold worldwide are now covered by patent licence fees that Microsoft has extracted from the likes Samsung, Sony and HTC.

In a pointed reference to Motorola, Microsoft's deputy general counsel, Horacio Gutierrez said it hoped to have all Android makers signed up to its licence deals soon.

“We have worked for multiple years to reach an amicable solution with the few global companies who have yet to take a licences, but so far they have been unwilling to address these issues in a fair manner,” he wrote on a company blog. “We’d prefer to consider these companies licensing partners and remain hopeful they can join the rest of the industry in the near future.”

Google's $12bn acquisition of Motorola was partly influenced by the patent trove it would acquire – reported to be worth a $5m chunk of the overall price. But given the number of smartphone and tablet makers that have caved to Microsoft's patent demands, there must be questions over how long Motorola can last out.

“Much of the current litigation in the so called 'smartphone patent wars' could be avoided if companies were willing to recognize the value of others’ creations in a way that is fair,” added Gutierrez.

According to some estimates, Microsoft makes more money from its Android license fees than it does from selling its Windows Phone 8 system.

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