For several years, Microsoft has claimed that Android smartphones owe a great deal of their technology to its patents. Although a full list of the patents Microsoft says Android infringes on has never been made public, the company has reportedly charged manufacturers billions of dollars to use its patented technology on Android smartphones. In effect, Microsoft has built an entire business out of taxing Android without ever revealing the patents in question. But now, the cat is out of the bag.
As part of its findings regarding the legality of Microsoft’s purchase of Nokia, the Chinese government published the full list of patents on which Microsoft claims Android infringes. Back in April, Microsoft stated that it produced the list to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce (MOFCOM). According to the Redmond tech giant, MOFCOM found that Microsoft holds “200 patent families that are necessary to build an Android smartphone.”
Despite Microsoft’s lofty statement that all companies should be more transparent about their patent holdings, it has never fully disclosed exactly which of its technologies Android smartphones use. The company couldn’t have been too happy about the Chinese government’s request to see the full list. In fact, the list only appears on the Chinese site and not on the English-language version.
The site contains two lists: one with 310 patents and applications, and another with about 100. There are 73 “standard-essential patents,” or SEPs, which are said to be used on all smartphones, and another sub-section of the larger list includes 127 patents that Microsoft claims are used on nearly every Android smartphone. Several of the technologies listed come from other notable patent cases, such as the Rockstar bid on Nortel’s patents and Microsoft’s battle with Android-based Barnes & Noble tablets.
Some estimates hint that Microsoft makes $2 billion each year off of its patents, simply by forcing Android device manufacturers to pay royalties. The company says that it already has licensing deals set up with 50 percent of all Android manufacturers, and many believe that Microsoft actually makes more money with this tax than it does from Windows Phone licensing agreements.