Not long ago, Microsoft (NAS: MSFT) was on a roll with its quest to patently conquer Google (NAS: GOOG) Android, steadily growing its list of Android gadget makers that had signed on the dotted line of a patent licensing agreement.
The fallen few weren't little no-names either, mind you. We're talking about household electronics names like Samsung, HTC, and Acer, among others. Meanwhile, two of Mr. Softy's targets had the gall to fight back (the nerve!). The defiant duo was none other than proposed Google subsidiary Motorola Mobility (NYS: MMI) and digital up-and-comer Barnes & Noble (NYS: BKS) .
At the end of December, Motorola shot and scored what was mostly a victory when the International Trade Commission (ITC) said the company had infringed on just one out of the original nine patents that Microsoft had thrown at it.
B&N has been trying to pull out the big guns, even attempting to call foul and bringing Uncle Sam into the fray with an antitrust probe, saying Microsoft's moves hinder competition. The bookseller refused to cave to Microsoft's demands for "exorbitant" licensing fees, going as far as to say it simply couldn't afford it.
In a recent development, ITC staff attorney Jeff Hsu has now said that he will be recommending to the ITC judge that B&N did not violate of any of the three patents Microsoft is alleging infringement of. There were originally five patents in the case, but the Redmond giant has been slimming down its attack recently to "streamline and simplify the issues to be considered," adding, "it was not a concession on the merits."
It's a preliminary recommendation, and the judge has the final say. Microsoft said the attorney's opinion was formulated before evidence was presented and may change throughout the trial. B&N has a lot riding on the case, since its Nook is one of the few growth catalysts it has left and an ITC-imposed import ban on the device could cripple the bookseller's prospects. The only other out would be to pay Microsoft's "shockingly high licensing fees."
Interestingly, Microsoft welcomed another major Android OEM to its ranks just last month -- LG Electronics. That addition led to Mr. Softy's pointing out that it now covers more than 70% of domestic Android smartphones sold.
After gaining patent momentum, it looks as if Microsoft may be running into a bit of a roadblock from the two that had the fortitude to fight back.
It's no wonder Microsoft has been targeting Android, since Android is leading the mobile revolution. With all the patent battling, investors can look deeper to find even more opportunities to ride the mobile revolution. You can start by checking out this new free report on "3 Hidden Winners of the iPhone, iPad, and Android Revolution," which names three critical component suppliers that are helping to drive the mobile devices of the future. Check it out now -- it's free.
At the time thisarticle was published Fool contributorEvan Niuholds no position in any company mentioned. Check out hisholdings and a short bio. The Motley Fool owns shares of Google and Microsoft.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Microsoft and Google and creating a bull call spread position in Microsoft. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.
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