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Microsoft, Wistron ink Android patent deal

The software giant signs an agreement with Taiwanese contract manufacturer Wistron to cover patents also related to Google's other operating system, Chrome OS.

Microsoft announced today the fourth patent-licensing deal in two weeks with a maker of Android devices, announcements timed perhaps to suggest that it has some momentum for its claims that Google's mobile operating system violates Microsoft's patents.

None of the deals, however, are with any of the biggest makers of Android devices.

Microsoft cut today's agreement with Wistron, a Taiwanese contract manufacturer. According to a Microsoft press release, the deal "provides broad coverage under Microsoft's patent portfolio for Wistron's tablets, mobile phones, e-readers, and other consumer devices." Terms weren't disclosed, other than the fact that Microsoft will receive some royalties from Winstron.

Microsoft's Horacio Gutierrez Microsoft

"We are pleased that Wistron is taking advantage of our industrywide licensing program, established to help companies address Android's IP issues," Horacio Gutierrez, Microsoft's corporate vice president and deputy general counsel of intellectual property and licensing, said in a statement.

The deal is also notable in that it offers patent protection for devices that run Google's Chrome operating system. In May, Google unveiled its instant-on Chromebook notebook computers that run its newest operating system, and the first units began selling last month. Google declined to comment on the Wistron agreement.

While Microsoft trickles out its latest licensee, it's unclear how significant a movement there is among Android device makers toward signing deals. The three most recent deals came from niche players in the business: General Dynamics Itronix, Velocity Micro, and Onkyo. Last year, Microsoft signed a deal with one large Android device maker, its longtime partner HTC.

But Microsoft is battling other big device makers in court. In March, Microsoft accused Barnes & Noble of violating patents that cover the way users of its Nook electronic reader, which runs on Android, interact with the devices. A month later, Barnes & Noble countered that Microsoft's claims were an abuse of the patent system in order to hinder competition. And last October, Microsoft sued Motorola, alleging that several of the cell phone maker's Android devices infringe on Redmond's patents.