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10/8/2010
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Microsoft Licenses Palm Technology

Move seen as strategic way for Microsoft to decrease lawsuits over smartphone patents.

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In the latest move to gain a competitive edge in the heated smartphone wars, software giant Microsoft on Thursday licensed several patents on technology that originally came from its competitor Palm for its smartphones.

The patents were licensed from Access and a subsidiary of Acacia Research, a Japanese company that acquired the developer of Palm's operating system, PalmSource, in 2005. They cover patents created by Palm, Palmsource, Bell Communications Research, and Geoworks. The move puts Microsoft on better legal footing against any potential issues with Palm, which Hewlett-Packard now owns.

Meanwhile, Acacia has filed several patent claims against Apple, Research in Motion, Samsung, and Motorola for functions including email synchronization and on-phone capabilities.

"By focusing on efficiently licensing patented innovations from other companies, we're free to develop great software and we're able to provide our partners and customers intellectual property peace-of-mind," said David Kaefer, Microsoft's general manager of intellectual property, in a statement.

As the popularity of smartphones has continued to rise, lawsuits have become almost the norm in the past year or so with several software companies and device makers filing suits against one another challenging patents. Last week, Microsoft sued Motorola, claiming Motorola's Android devices violate Microsoft patents, but said this week that it would still consider partnering with Motorola on Windows 7 handsets.

In other battles pertaining to smartphone technology, Finnish handset maker Nokia sued Apple last year, and Apple then sued device maker HTC. In August, Google was sued by Oracle, which alleged patent and copyright infringement over its Android software.

There were 74 patents in total that Microsoft licensed from Acacia and Access for undisclosed terms. Microsoft is hopeful that its latest Windows Phone 7 devices will be successful, as its share of the smartphone market has dropped by almost half, to 5% from 9.3% in the past year. Three of the handsets are due to be released by AT&T next month, reportedly made by Samsung, LG, and HTC.

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