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Barnes & Noble accuses Microsoft of patent bullying

Barnes & Noble Nook Color

Last month, Microsoft filed a patent infringment suit against bookseller Barnes & Noble, claiming the company’s Android-based Nook and Nook Color ereaders violate Microsoft patents related to user interface, browsing, and downloading content. Now, Barnes & Noble is firing back (PDF), accusing Microsoft in a filing of abusing the patent system to generate legal trouble for Android device makers. According to Barnes & Noble, Microsoft’s patent claims are “arbitrary” and “non-essential,” and serve only to cast a cloud of potential licensing fees or protracted litigation over any project considering Google’s Android platform.

“Microsoft has asserted patents that extend only to arbitrary, outmoded, or non-essential design features,” Barnes & Noble wrote in its filing. “Microsoft is misusing these patents as part of a scheme to try to eliminate or marginalize the competition to its own Windows Phone 7 mobile device operating system posed by the open source Android operating system and other open-source operating systems.”

Microsoft has long asserted that Google’s Android is not “free,” and that they believe they are due royalty payments for technologies included in Android regardless of whether Google charges Android implementers any fees for the operating system. Microsoft has also named Foxconn and Inventec as defendants in its suit.

Microsoft implies Barnes & Noble’s claims are an attempt to draw attention away from the infringement claims and shift the argument towards antitrust issues. “Our lawsuits against Barnes & Noble, Foxconn, and Inventec are founded upon their actions, and the issue is their infringement of our intellectual property rights,” the company said in a statement distributed via email. “In seeking to protect our intellectual property, we are doing what any other company in our situation would do.”

Microsoft is also pursuing patent infringement claims against Motorola over its Android smartphones. Motorola responded with a countersuit claiming Microsoft violates more than a dozen Motorola patents in Windows, Xbox 360, and mobile products.

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