Microsoft licenses old Palm smartphone patents

Microsoft licensed dozens of technology patents, most of which relate to the technological underpinnings of the original Palm smartphone operating system. The action is yet another indication of the complex patent-licensing web draped across many technology companies.

The software giant, which is poised to unveil its Windows Phone 7 platform at an event Monday in New York City, licensed 74 patents from Access as well as a unit of Acacia Research. The licenses cover a range of technologies patented by Palm, PalmSource, Bell Communications Research and Geoworks. Access acquired PalmSource, the firm behind the original Palm OS, in 2005 for $324 million. Terms of Microsoft's licensing deals were not disclosed.

There has been a great deal of legal wrangling among smartphone companies over patents in recent months, and the latest move by Microsoft may represent the company's attempt to inoculate itself against further litigation. Indeed, some of the patents Microsoft licensed are at issue in a lawsuit Acacia filed in March--covering technologies like email synchronization and providing phone capabilities from personal computer devices--against Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL), Motorola (NYSE:MOT), Research In Motion (NASDAQ:RIMM), Samsung and others, according to the Wall Street Journal. That suit did not name Microsoft as a defendant.

Importantly, the patents Microsoft licensed do not cover Palm's webOS operating system, which is now owned by Hewlett-Packard.

Microsoft's licensing deals come less than a week after Microsoft sued Motorola, alleging Motorola's smartphones running Google's Android platform violate Microsoft patents. Since then, the two companies have expressed a willingness to work together on Windows Phone 7.

For more:
- see this WSJ article (sub. req.)
- see this Reuters article
- see this ZDNet article

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