Apple may have unleashed its lawyers on Samsung over alleged patent infringements, but Microsoft has no reason to worry that Windows Phone or the Surface tablet will be the next target. Microsoft has licensed design patents from Apple that keep Microsoft free and clear from a similar lawsuit.
That information came out at the Apple-Samsung trial today. Reuters reports that
An Apple executive testified that the company had licensed prized design patents to Microsoft Corp but with an "anti-cloning agreement" to prevent copying of its iPhone and iPad.
The precise patents that Microsoft has licensed weren't revealed in court. CNet reports that Apple patent licensing director Boris Teksler said that "special prohibitions" in the deal clearly bars cloning. He said:
"There's peace to each other's products; there's a clear acknowledgement that there's no cloning."
You only need to take a cursory glance at Windows Phone and Windows 8 on tablets to see that the Microsoft design clearly is not a clone. Both operating systems sport big, colorful tiles that are "live," and display constantly changing information. In the design for the iPhone and iPad, apps take center stage. In the design for Windows Phone and Windows 8 tablets, information takes center stage.
Making the deal was clearly a smart move by Microsoft, because it eliminates one hurdle that has been a serious one for mobile Android devices -- the wrath of lawyers. Apple is not alone in going after makers of Android mobile devices. Microsoft has done it as well, and to good effect: Analysts at Trefis estimate that Microsoft received $792 million in Android patent royalties from just two companies in a single quarter, Samsung and HTC.
Of course, none of this means that Windows Phone or Windows 8 tablets will be a success. But at least Microsoft won't have to contend with Apple's lawyers as well as its stellar hardware design.