Microsoft has formed a patent agreement with HTC that will allow the handset manufacturer to continue making phones running the Google Android operating system.
The agreement is the first news that HTC has even been infringing on Microsoft's intellectual property.
HTC has been caught up in a legal dispute with Apple over its mobile phones in the past few months. Apple has claimed infringement of 20 patents relating to the iPhone's user interface, hardware and architecture.
Commentators on Microsoft's latest move have suggested that the company could be trying to protect HTC from Apple. The deal will cover all HTC Andoid phones, even the Nexus One, which is sold by Google directly.
Because Microsoft's patent protection also protects Google, the question remains why Microsoft would want to help its biggest rival, even if the move does snub Apple.
The lack of clarity is partly because the patents involved in the deal have not been listed, making it impossible to determine whether the arrangement will defend HTC from Google.
The financial terms of the deal have also not been disclosed, although Microsoft has said that it will receive "royalties" from HTC.
"HTC and Microsoft have a long history of technical and commercial collaboration, and today's agreement is an example of how industry leaders can reach commercial arrangements that address intellectual property," said Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's intellectual property and licensing corporate vice president and deputy general counsel.
"We are pleased to continue our collaboration with HTC."
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