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Microsoft inks patent protection deal with Foxconn parent

In exchange for unspecified royalties, Microsoft agrees not to sue the parent company of the world's largest hardware maker for devices it produces that run Google's Android and Chrome operating systems.

Microsoft has struck a patent-licensing agreement with Hon Hai, parent company of Foxconn, that protects the company from being sued by the software giant over devices it makes that run Google's Android and Chrome operating systems.

Hon Hai will pay Microsoft unspecified royalties in exchange for "broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio," the companies announced this evening.

Microsoft has long argued that Chrome and Android infringe on its patented technology in areas ranging from the user interface to the underlying operating system. However, rather than going after Google for patent violations, Microsoft has targeted device makers, pressing them to license Microsoft's patents that it alleges Android and Chrome infringe upon.

With its Hon Hai agreement, Microsoft said it now has patent protection deals in place with hardware makers that produce more than half the world's Android smartphones.

"We are pleased that the list of companies benefiting from Microsoft's Android licensing program now includes the world's largest contract manufacturer, Hon Hai," Horacio Gutierrez, corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of the Intellectual Property Group at Microsoft, said in a statement. "By licensing both brand name companies and their contract manufacturers, we have successfully increased the overall effectiveness and global reach of the program."

Microsoft has reached similar agreements with other hardware makers, including Acer, HTC, ViewSonic, Nikon, Compal Electronics, Quanta Computer, and Wistron.

Google disagrees with Microsoft's approach and those deals with Android and Chrome device makers, contending that neither operating system violates Microsoft's patents.

Reducing patent litigation is a huge issue for Microsoft, which is not only a massive patent holder but a frequent target of patent suits. To smooth the process, the software giant launched a Web tool last month that lets anyone search its entire portfolio of 40,785 patents.

Microsoft said the new Web site, dubbed Patent Tracker, gives those who might otherwise illegally use Microsoft's patents without permission a way to find what intellectual property Microsoft owns.