Samsung And Microsoft Ink Deal For Cross-Licensing Patents, Developing Windows Phone

You’d have to be living in some cave to not know that IP wars are all the rage this season, especially with our favorite electronics/software companies. Samsung, in particular, has been the target of all-mighty Apple, and had quite the difficult year. But alas, Microsoft has swooped in, and the two have decided to cross-license their patent portfolios. This would better protect both companies from outside attacks moving forward.

Past that, Samsung will pay Microsoft royalties for all phones and tablets running the Android platform. Remember that funny little math equation that leaves Redmond with more cash from Android than its own Windows Phone platform? Yeah, that’s in play here. The agreement also states that both companies will participate in the marketing and development of Windows Phone 7.

This is the seventh Android developer with which Microsoft has signed a licensing deal. HTC is the next biggest licensee behind Samsung, who are joined by Acer, General Dynamics Itronix, Onkyo, Velocity Micro, ViewSonic and Wistron. In a blog post on the matter, Microsoft’s General Counsel Brad Smith and Deputy General Counsel Horacio Gutierrez explained that these licensing deals are the “responsible manner” in which to resolve patent tiffs.

We recognize that some businesses and commentators – Google chief among them – have complained about the potential impact of patents on Android and software innovation. To them, we say this: look at today’s announcement. If industry leaders such as Samsung and HTC can enter into these agreements, doesn’t this provide a clear path forward?

The timing of this deal is key, as Samsung is making a bigger statement than the announcement itself. If Samsung had faith that the Googorola deal would be beneficial to Android, there would be no need to sign on the dotted line until the acquisition was closed. But Samsung controls over 28,000 patents in the U.S., and more than 100,000 globally, according to FOSS Patents. Motorola holds about 24,500 patents worldwide, including applications and granted patents. To Samsung, it would be easier and safer to take matters into their own hands.

As far as Apple and Samsung are concerned, this won’t do much to change the state of affairs. Samsung can’t suddenly begin fighting Apple with Microsoft patents. The deal only allows Samsung to build products or practice technology covered in Microsoft’s patents moving forward. However, it does make plain how Samsung perceives Android at the moment — in peril.

All in all this isn’t a huge deal for the big guns. HTC and Samsung can afford to pay a fee for their Android phones, especially if it gives them a bit of added protection. But Google won’t like this one bit. Not only is Microsoft buddying up with some of its big-name Android partners, but with all these licensing deals in place, Android as a whole may begin to have a fee associated with it.

Personally, I can’t wait to hear Google’s response.