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Samsung, Microsoft Ink Patent Deal

Samsung is paying to use Android, and it's also promising to help Microsoft develop Windows Phone devices.

Facing a multi-country intellectual property war with Apple over claims that its Galaxy tablet copies the iPhone and iPad, Samsung has decided to limit its exposure to potential patent litigation from another major tech company.

The South Korea-based consumer electronics company has struck a patent cross-licensing deal with Microsoft, which claims that Google's Android operating system infringes upon patents that it holds.

Samsung appears to be giving most of the ground in this deal: It has agreed to pay Microsoft royalties for its Android phones and tablets and has agreed to help develop and market Windows Phone devices.

Microsoft could use the assistance: In May, market research firm Asymco estimated that Microsoft makes five times as much money from Android licensing deals as it does from sales of Windows Phone devices.

"Through the cross-licensing of our respective patent portfolios, Samsung and Microsoft can continue to bring the latest innovations to the mobile industry," said Dr. Won-Pyo Hong, EVP of global product strategy at Samsung's mobile communication division, in a statement. "We are pleased to build upon our long history of working together to open a new chapter of collaboration beginning with our Windows Phone 'Mango' launch this fall."

[ Amazon is also entering the Android market. See Amazon Kindle Fire: 4 Key Considerations. ]

Samsung joins a growing list of other Android hardware makers that have opted to pay Microsoft for the use of Google's mobile operating system. These licensees include: Acer, General Dynamics Itronix, HTC, Onkyo, Velocity Micro, ViewSonic, and Wistron.

As Microsoft notes in a blog post penned by general counsel Brad Smith and deputy general counsel Horacio Gutierrez, that leaves Motorola Mobility, a company Google is in the process of acquiring, as the only major Android phone maker in the U.S. that's not paying Microsoft.

In announcing its intent to acquire Motorola Mobility, Google said, "Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google's patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple, and other companies."

Smith and Gutierrez suggest Google would do better to fall in line and pay protection money. "We recognize that some businesses and commentators--Google chief among them--have complained about the potential impact of patents on Android and software innovation," they wrote. "To them, we say this: Look at today's announcement. If industry leaders such as Samsung and HTC can enter into these agreements, doesn't this provide a clear path forward?"

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