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Microsoft blasts sueball at Samsung over Android patent royalties

Claims payment halted after Redmond bought Nokia mobe biz

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Updated Microsoft filed a lawsuit against Samsung in a US court on Friday, claiming the Korean firm was in breach of an earlier cross-licensing agreement relating to Android technology patents.

The two companies sealed their licensing deal in 2011, back in the days when Microsoft was threatening to sue all and sundry over patents covering aspects of Android smartphones.

Redmond has since inked similar deals with dozens of Android device vendors, all without revealing any dollar amounts or even which patents it's actually asserting – although it says it has around 200 that apply.

But if Samsung was a licensing cash cow for Microsoft for a couple of years, the software giant says those royalty payments began drying up once the companies' business relationship took a dramatic turn in 2013.

In documents [PDF] filed with the US District Court of the Southern District of New York on Friday and obtained in heavily redacted form by The Register, Redmond claims Samsung started bucking the licensing agreement once Microsoft announced its intention to buy Nokia's smartphone business.

"At no time ... did Samsung raise any objection to its obligation to pay the royalties to Microsoft that Samsung determined it owed," the filing states. "Shortly after Microsoft's announcement of the Nokia Acquisition, however, Samsung began to assert an ever-expanding list of reasons why the announced acquisition allegedly violated the License Agreement and/or the Collaboration Agreement."

Microsoft said the difficulties began when Samsung failed to pay one year's royalty payment on time. And while it did eventually pay the full amount – though Redmond isn't saying how long it actually took to collect – Samsung then refused to pay the interest that Microsoft demanded for the delay.

From the sound of it, Redmond doesn't expect Samsung to make this year's royalty payment, either. The chaebol has apparently asked South Korean courts to reduce or eliminate the sums it must make to Microsoft – even though, as Microsoft points out, most of those were granted by countries other than South Korea and they're based on products sold outside South Korea.

The software giant also worries that if Samsung believes any Nokia phones Microsoft releases aren't covered by the cross-licensing agreement, there could be a big patent sueball heading Redmond's way.

As a result, Microsoft's lawsuit seeks not just monetary damages in the form of the earlier-mentioned interest payment, but also a declaration from the court that the Nokia purchase didn't invalidate Microsoft's patent licensing agreement with Samsung and that Samsung must comply with the agreement in full – which includes not asserting any patents against Microsoft.

"We don’t take lightly filing a legal action, especially against a company with which we’ve enjoyed a long and productive partnership," David Howard, Microsoft's deputy general counsel wrote in a blog post on Friday. "Unfortunately, even partners sometimes disagree. After spending months trying to resolve our disagreement, Samsung has made clear in a series of letters and discussions that we have a fundamental disagreement as to the meaning of our contract." ®

Update

Samsung responded to El Reg's request for comment late on Friday, saying, "We will review the complaint in detail and determine appropriate measures in response."

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