Microsoft sues Barnes & Noble

March 21, 2011: 5:53 PM ET

The struggling bookseller now has to fend off a lawsuit from Microsoft over the Android OS in its Nook eBook Reader.

Microsoft (MSFT) today filed legal actions against Barnes & Noble, Inc.(BKS), Foxconn International Holdings Ltd., and Inventec Corporation in both the U.S. International Trade Commission and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington over patents related to the Android operating systems on which its Nook eBook readers are based.

The fun part is where Microsoft says Barnes and Noble violated its patent portfolio with its Google (GOOG) Android OS:

Technologies that enable natural user interaction are key to the success of mobile devices.

o   People also expect to be able to access command windows without interfering with the application's main window, and to be able to tab through various screens to find the information they need. Microsoft's patents enable the opening of a new, tabbed control window. (U.S. Patent No. 5,889,522)

Opening a new window tab?

Our technologies help speed up web surfing and keep users informed of download status.

o   Surfing the web quickly is a key device feature. One of the patents in this case enables devices to show the content of a page even while the background is still rendering, allowing users to interact with the page more quickly.  (U.S. Patent No. 5,778,372)

Showing the content of a page while an image is loading?

o   Users also want to know the status of their downloads. A Microsoft patent provides information about download status on top of the content display.  (U.S. Patent No. 6,339,780)

The download status bar?

Our innovations facilitate users' ability to interact with document and other e-content.

o   The ability to select text is critical to working with documents. One of our patents enables users to select text, see what is selected via highlighting, and expand the selection in either direction as desired.  (U.S. Patent No. 6,891,551)

Select text?  Comically, Microsoft's own Windows Phone 7 can't yet select text for cutting and pasting.

o   Users also want to annotate e-books and other documents. A Microsoft patent allows people to insert and review annotations without changing the underlying document, and to select annotations and be brought to the related portion of the document.  (U.S. Patent No. 6,957,233)

Annotations without changing the underlying document.  Again, trivial.

I understand that patents are a serious game but these seem to be not only trivial but easy to circumvent and at worst easy to omit.  It does however bring up something interesting.  Perhaps the reason Barnes and Noble doesn't actually build a full Android tablet, as I've discussed before, is because it doesn't wan to be further into Microsoft's patent crosshairs.

Motorola (MMI), another manufacturer of Android OS devices, which stopped producing Microsoft products a few years ago, is also in Microsoft's litigation sights with these and other patents.  Motorola, is no slouch when it comes to patents and has sued back.  Samsung and HTC, which produce both Windows and Android devices have been spared for the moment.

The message Microsoft is sending here is clear.  "We've got no other way to fight Android but to litigate, no matter how silly the patents sound"

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About This Author
Seth Weintraub
Seth Weintraub

Google went from searching the Web to worming its way into nearly every facet of business and government. Seth Weintraub unveils where the company is going, who it's competing with, who it's about to compete with and how market forces push the company to veer or adhere to its Don't Be Evil motto. For 15 years, Weintraub was a global IT director for a number of companies before becoming a blogger.

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