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Huawei butters up Microsoft to avoid Android patent war

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Chinese infrastructure giant Huawei is bucking the trend by talking to Microsoft about patent licensing before launching potentially infringing Android devices.

While the rest of the mobile industry just builds gadgets then waits to see who sues, Huawei has been telling the BBC that it is taking the innovative approach of talking to patent-holders prior to the UK launch of its Android devices, though time is running out.

Huawei has already stormed into the cosy oligopoly that has been supplying network operators for decades. From its secure headquarters in China, Huawei has spread westward to become the second-largest supplier of telecommunications infrastructure, and now wants to push into retail channels with Android-based handsets and a tablet.

The Blaze, for example, runs Android 2.3 on a 3.2in screen (curved). It supports the normal 3G connectivity with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and half a gigabyte of RAM, but it does all that with a price tag aimed below £100 – a price at which Huawei reckons it can still turn a small profit.

Huawei has a decent patent portfolio in infrastructure, and has cross licensing deals with all the important players – Nokia Siemens, Qualcomm, Ericsson et al, but in handsets it needs to tread carefully. Huawei is well aware that Chinese companies have something of a reputation regarding patent rights, so talking to Microsoft makes sense.

It's certainly a welcome change from the if-you-build-it-they-will-sue approach more common in the industry, though it is probably not going to be enough to keep the company out of the courts entirely, given the litigious nature of the mobile business these days. ®

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