WSJ: Microsoft Pulls Patent from Barnes & Noble Case

Wall Street Journal

REDMOND, Wash. — Microsoft Corp. has pulled one of five patents used last year to sue Barnes & Noble Inc. for alleged infringement related to the book retailer's use of Google Inc.'s Android software in its Nook e-reader devices, removing another element from one of several cases targeting Google's technology.

The move marks the second patent removed from the case, and comes as Google and its partners confront a wave of legal action directed at Android, which is provided freely to device makers and has captured a large share of the mobile software market.

Microsoft filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) last year, alleging that the Barnes & Noble Nook, Nook Color and the Android software powering the devices infringe on its intellectual property. Other respondents named in the case include China-based Nook manufacturers Foxconn Electronics Inc. and Inventec Corp.

Microsoft filed a motion Thursday at the ITC to remove a patent related to displaying Internet content from the case. That follows the elimination of another, separate patent last month, leaving Microsoft with three patents to press its case.

Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft has asked the ITC to ban the import and sale of the Nook. Microsoft also has sued Barnes & Noble in U.S. District Court in Washington.

The patent being pulled from the ITC case this week was issued in 1999, and relates to the use of overlapping images that are tabbed for easier navigation.

A Microsoft representative said, "We removed the patent from the ITC investigation to streamline and simplify the issues to be considered at the hearing as is often done in ITC proceedings. It was not a concession on the merits."

A Barnes & Noble spokeswoman declined to comment. A Google spokesman also declined to comment.

Allie McCormick, a representative for Innography, a patent software and analysis firm, said the patent Microsoft is pulling from the ITC case this week ranks in the top 20 percent of patents the firm has in its database.

Points in the patent's favor include indications it was "a pretty novel idea" when it was filed in the 1990s, and a relatively long period spent being examined at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, McCormick said.

The patent previously pulled from the ITC case against Barnes & Noble related to the loading of data into a browser.

Microsoft has made a concerted effort to enforce patents it says cover technology related to Google's Android. The company has sued Motorola Mobility Holdings Inc., which is being acquired by Google, and has won related licensing agreements with LG Electronics Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co.

Google has complained Microsoft and others have sought to unfairly attack Android with litigation using "bogus patents," rather than competing in the marketplace.

Android captured 47.3 percent of the smartphone software market as of December, according to internet marketing research company comScore, compared with 29.6 percent held by Apple Inc. and 4.7 percent held by Microsoft.

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