Microsoft, Samsung Share Patent Portfolios

You might not call them bedfellows yet, but Microsoft and Samsung are well on their way to a healthy relationship – they’re swapping patents. The software giant and consumer electronics behemoth announced their cross-licensing agreement Thursday morning in a press release.

Under the agreement, Samsung will be allowed to use Microsoft patents in all of its product lines, including computer products, set-top boxes, digital media players, camcorders, televisions, printers and home appliances. Microsoft will get the same access to Samsung’s patents for its own products.

The financial details of the deal weren’t disclosed, but the statement specified that both sides would receive monetary compensation for their patent portfolios. With two companies trading mystery sums, it’s not clear whose balance sheet will end up in the green, but Samsung was the largest publisher of U.S. patents in 2006 and is known to have one of the largest portfolios in the country. A quick search on the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Web site revealed that Samsung currently holds 21,113 patents to Microsoft’s 6,613.

“We are always looking for new opportunities to work collaboratively within the industry, and Samsung was a natural fit, particularly because of its leadership in the rapidly changing world of digital media technologies,” said Horacio Gutierrez, vice president of Intellectual Property and Licensing at Microsoft, in the statement.

The release made no mention of what kind of products will be born of this agreement in the immediate future, but Samsung’s high-capacity solid-state hard drives might look mighty tempting for any of Microsoft’s future forays into the portable media player market.

Samsung is far from the first to open up it’s patent vault to Microsoft. In the past year alone, Microsoft has made similar agreements with companies including Fuji, Xerox, NEC, Nortel, Novell, and Seiko Epson Corp.

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