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Barnes & Noble Seeks DOJ Action Against Microsoft

Retailer says software giant is trying to bully its rivals in the tablet market into coughing up royalties on Android devices.
10 Epic Android Apps
10 Epic Android Apps
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Book merchant and e-reader maker Barnes & Noble filed a complaint with the Justice Department alleging that Microsoft is using "frivolous" lawsuits, or the threat thereof, to attempt to bully competitors into paying royalties to Redmond on sales of their Android-based devices.

Microsoft has publicly claimed that Android steps on a number of patents related to its Windows operating system, and has struck royalty agreements that require a number of Android-based smartphone, tablet, e-Reader, and other device makers, including Samsung, HTC, Casio, and Acer, to pay royalties to Redmond.

Earlier this year, Microsoft filed a complaint against Barnes & Noble with the International Trade Commission claiming that the merchant's Nook reader violates its patents.

"Microsoft's willingness to bully small players with expensive litigation raises a substantial barrier to entry in any market in which it claims dominance," said Barnes & Noble general counsel Eugene DelFelice, in a letter earlier this year to former DOJ antitrust chief Christine Varney, according to a report Wednesday in The Wall Street Journal.

[ Learn more. Read Microsoft Gets Android Phone Makers To Pay Up. ]

In the past, the software giant has said that patent actions are an effort to protect intellectual property it's spent billions of dollars to develop.

"Amid continuing clamor about uncertainty and litigation relating to smartphone patents, we're putting in place a series of agreements that are reasonable and fair to both sides," said Gutierrez and Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith, in a recent, jointly authored blog post. "Our agreements ensure respect and reasonable compensation for Microsoft's inventions and patent portfolio."

In an email to InformationWeek, a spokesperson for the company said Microsoft makes its patents "available on reasonable terms for other operating systems" and that it would be "pleased to extend a license to Barnes & Noble."

To date, Microsoft has yet to directly sue Android developer Google. As a possible preemptive measure, the search company in August said it would pay $12.5 billion to acquire Motorola Mobility, which manufacturers Android-powered handsets, and which Microsoft has sued for patent violations. Beyond giving Google its own smartphone manufacturing capacity, the deal also gives it access to Motorola's trove of more than 24,000 patents.

Some observers believe that if Microsoft ever sues Google, the latter will use those patents as the basis for a countersuit.