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Microsoft narrows patent battle with Barnes & Noble

Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Microsoft has dropped one of its patent infringement claims against book- and ereader-seller Barnes & Noble before the U.S. International Trade Commission, in an effort to streamline its case against the company as a trial date looms closer. The so-called “522 patent” describes a method for displaying tabs similar to those now commonly found in Web browsers; Microsoft isn’t saying the patent is not valid or is not being infringed upon by Barnes & Noble, just that its severing that particular patent from its current litigation.

There are three patents remaining in Microsoft’s complaint against Barnes & Noble. The U.S. ITC is scheduled to hold hearings on Microsoft’s complaints against Barnes & Noble on Monday.

Last week, administrative law judge Theodore Essex (with the U.S. ITC) granted Microsoft’s request to dismiss claims by Barnes & Noble that Microsoft is abusing the patent system in an effort to marginalize Android and other open-source operating systems. The ruling restrict’s Barnes & Noble’s avenues of defense to attacking the validity of Microsoft’s patents, and/or attempting to demonstrate Barnes & Noble’s products do not infringe upon them.

Microsoft has been widely successful in getting Android device makers to license technology from Microsoft—meaning the Redmond software giant is earning money from the majority of Android smartphones and tablets on sale in the U.S., despite Android being a “free and open” operating system. One of the major holdouts against Microsoft’s Android licensing juggernaut is bookseller Barnes & Noble, which has refused to knuckle under; the other big-name holdout against Microsoft is Motorola—and Google is currently in the process of acquiring Motorola Mobility, in part to shore up Android’s patent position.

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