back to article Microsoft sues InterDigital for 'monopoly power' over mobile patents

Microsoft has sued for relief from patent demands made by InterDigital ahead of a decision in August by the US International Trade Commission that could see Lumia phones barred from crossing America's borders. InterDigital holds several patents for technologies that must be included in standards-compliant 3G and 4G comms …

  1. ratfox
    WTF?

    Huh?

    Surely, monopoly power is precisely what is granted by the patent system? Isn't it working as intended?

    1. LosD

      Re: Huh?

      Yep, but normally you can work around it, or just remove that functionality. However, when it is tied into a standard like 3G or LTE, there is no way around it. That is why there are special rules governing standards essential patents, which among other things mandates FRAND terms.

      However, I have a bit of a hard time feeling sorry for Microsoft... They've gamed the patent system in numerous ways before with FAT and mobile patents, i.e. the "We have 2xx patents covering your stuff, but we wont tell you which ones until you take out a license" scheme.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh?

        No, like too many people you totally misunderstand how FRAND works. Having your patents subject to FRAND is totally voluntary, there is no compulsion. There are not "special rules" that "mandate FRAND terms". Those FRAND terms apply only if you take part in the standards process, which for your company to be allowed to do requires a commitment to license all your patents used in the standard under FRAND terms. If you do not take part in the standards process, and implementation of the standard ends up requiring technology you've patented, you can charge whatever you want and you could charge different prices to Apple, Microsoft, and Samsung if you felt like it.

        I have no idea whether InterDigital took part in the standards development process for 3G or LTE, or whether they just have enough patents that devices that meet those standards may infringe on them. If they did take part in standards development they must license those patents on FRAND terms. If that's the case, the only thing Microsoft could be complaining about here is if they're trying to pull a fast one like Motorola and trying to claim royalties based on a percentage of the sales price of the device rather than the chip that implements the technology.

        I remember back when Apple first started making cell phones back in 2007 they signed an agreement with InterDigital within a month or two of the initial sales. For all the complaining people do about how difficult Apple is with licensing, they paid up with these guys right out of the gate. That shows how big of a player they are, if even Apple does not trifle with them.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Huh?

          I understand that "fair pricing" would preclude differential pricing to different vendors under SEP scheme. Thus, along as everyone gets the same deal there is no advantage in the marketplace. MS seems to be complaining unfair practices for having to pay the according to the schedule. Rather ironic given MS' history of unethical business practices if not outright criminal behavior.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Huh?

            I think you're making assumptions, unless you've read stories elsewhere that provided more information.

            If InterDigital was never part of developing the 3G/4G standards, their parts are not FRAND/SEP and they can charge whatever they want. If so Microsoft might be unhappy about being asked to pay more than others.

            Now maybe they have a standard pricing schedule, either due to FRAND or because they just decided to do it that way. If so Microsoft is free to object, and see if they can get a better deal in court. Like I said, it is also possible they're trying to pull a fast one like Motorola and charge based on the price of the device rather than the chip that implements the technology. That's a no-no where FRAND is concerned (or at least that's what courts have said so far) but if these patents aren't FRAND then there's nothing really stopping them from charging that way unless Microsoft can find a legal argument that a court will accept.

  2. nematoad Silver badge
    Windows

    Hah.

    Well if anyone knows about being a monopolist it's Microsoft.

    The biter has been bitten. Perhaps now MS knows how all the other companies damaged and destroyed by MS's monopolistic activities feel.

    "... discriminating against Redmond because it's a small player in the market.

    Delicious.

    I reckon the hypocrisy shown by MS is breath taking.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Stop

      Re: Hah.

      Do recall all those other markets where they started as a bit player with a laughing stock 1.0 and ended up owning the market 3.0 and past. I'd keep an eye on this if you are a competitor or just around this space.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Hah.

        Except, when it comes to mobile phones, Microsoft is way past version 3.0

  3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    IIRC, Microsoft tried this with Motorola patents

    Microsoft has lots of patents, but their competitors have standards essential patents. Microsoft have been seeking rulings that make standards essential patents valueless. The obvious solution is to give Microsoft all that they want and more: abolish the entire patent system. The research would happen anyway, and people would not have to pay 'protection' money to a bunch or lawyers.

  4. Nathan 13

    Microsoft

    Evil, and hopefully irrelevant and all but gone by 2020.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Doesn't microsoft claim that they have patents for parts of the android OS that they are using to shake down android handset manufactures? How is that any different to what interdigital are doing to MS?

    A bit like the kettle calling the pot black.

  6. patrickhenry
    Holmes

    Microsoft is winning at this game

    See the Arstechnica article stating, "The US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit has upheld (PDF) a 2013 jury verdict finding that Motorola must pay Microsoft $14.5 million for violating its commitments to license certain standard-essential patents on a "fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" (FRAND) basis."

  7. ecofeco Silver badge

    HAHAHAHAAHAHAAHAHAHAA

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH

    *gasp*

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

    Fuck them. Straight to hell.

  8. Herby

    Who to root for?

    This is an interesting choice. On one hand you a monopolistic big company that asserts patent positions and on the other hand you have a monopolistic big company that asserts patent positions.

    Hum? Who to pick. Can this go against BOTH of them? We can only hope.

  9. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Losing the lot

    Something tells me that the current MS under SadNad wouldn't be too disappointed if it went that way.

  10. Pisartis

    Microsoft whining about being "a small player in the market" and having to pay through the nose to license someone else's standard?

    Boo fucking hoo

  11. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    Meh

    Pot? Kettle?

    All of which just goes to underline the utter lunacy of the entire system.

    1. mark 177

      Re: Pot? Kettle?

      The system itself is not lunacy, just the corporate shenanigans that accompany it.

      Who would spend money on R&D if their competitors copy it without paying? That would be a classic "free rider" problem, leading to a dearth of innovation.

  12. W. Anderson

    same tight shoe on other foot

    The same dumb s#%t that Microsoft is railing against in regard to actions of InterDigital is exactly the same behavior of Microsoft, Apple, Sony and other stake-holders of "Rockstar" real "Patent Troll" scumbags. No difference.

    Only when small companies like InterDigital take the greedy and draconian behemoths to the cleaners in patent licensing - probably to tine of hundreds of $$billions - will the government - Congress - and technology industry attempt sincerely to pre-empt Software Patents from stifling true technology innovation. Until such time much of the the very creative tech innovation will take place outside USA and may or may not be availablee on these shores.

  13. steamnut

    Talk about pot and kettle

    What about the constant threat against Android makers? They all pay up against a totally unknown and undisclosed threat.

    Microsoft want it both ways and are just using their size and wealth to get what they want. They expect Android makers to pay up so they must pay up as well. That's just fair.

    Hopefully they will lose this battle else we are all doomed to anything the Microsoft want to do.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    MS don't like it up them

    "InterDigital holds several patents for technologies that must be included in standards-compliant 3G and 4G comms handsets. Microsoft's suit claims these patents are being abused so that unreasonable licensing charges can be wrung out of anyone in the mobile phone world."

    So when MS is the one using patents to hold other OEMs to ransom, that's OK (cite: Linux patent threats). As soon as some other company engages in the same tactic, MS go mewling to mother. I have no sympathy fr this convicted monopolist and serial attacker of freedom.

    Or perhaps it's time MS et al just grow up and realise that the patent system as applied to IT simply isn't working?

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    For thos bitching about MS

    You are talking about standards and optional systems.

    If it's REQUIRED to make the system comply with international standards, then FRAND should take place. If it's not required, then feel free to charge what you want.

    So something to make a phone work on a cell network, should be FRAND, to make it work with Facebook, would not need be.

    So complaining FAT, which is not required to make Linux work, is not licensed under FRAND is irrelevant.

    Now I'm not defending MS's history on many things, but you lot are cutting of your nose to spite your face, as this potentially affects EVERY mobile player out there, inducing companies way smaller than Microsoft.

    Seriously guys, lose this sad hatred of <insert hated company here> and take a look at each thing on a case by case basis, most big companies are complete fuckers at some point. I know of no large company that doesn't shit on people somewhere along the line.

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